8:20 p.m. ET
40 degrees/ Clear
Key Coaching Decision #1: (CAR ball, trailing 24-7 / first-and-10, PIT 36 / 5:42 Q2)
• A pass play from Cam Newton to D.J. Moore was ruled short of the first down for a nine-yard gain. Ron Rivera successfully challenged the ruling of the spot and the play was reversed and it was determined that Moore had gained 11 yards and a first down. The Panthers would later score on a Christian McCaffrey touchdown to cut the Steelers advantage to 24-14.
Key Coaching Decision #2: (PIT ball, leading 31-14 / first-and-10, PIT 11 / 1:02 Q2)
• After the Steelers stopped a Panthers drive late in the first half, they used a timeout to save time for a drive of their own. On first down, Ben Roethlisberger completed a 14-yard pass to Jaylen Samuels – but the Steelers were in no hurry to move the ball further down the field. They had a timeout remaining to attempt to move the ball. Instead, Roethlisberger eventually took a knee at his own 37-yard line to end the half.
• It made sense for Pittsburgh to play conservative here and not allow any big defensive plays to cut into their three-score lead. However, it seemed like they were going into the drive with the intention of adding to their lead.
• The Panthers’ three-game winning streak ended on Thursday night.
• We questioned why Cam Newton was a participant late in this game, after the game’s outcome was already determined. The Steelers had already beaten him up, sacked him five times and forced him into bad throws including a first quarter pick-six. The Panthers offensive line was no match for Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt among others. Newton finished 23 of 29 for 193 and two touchdowns.
• Christian McCaffrey has improved significantly from his rookie season to Year 2. He ended the game with three touchdowns (one rushing, two receiving) and 138 yards from scrimmage on 19 touches (14 carries, five receptions).
• The Steelers are now 6-2-1 and winners of five straight games.
• Pittsburgh’s offense is hitting on all cylinders. The Steelers scored on their first offensive play from scrimmage, a 75-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. They would score on four of their five first-half drives to take a 31-14 lead at the half. Roethlisberger would finish the game with a 158.3 passer rating (a perfect passer rating).
• As Mike Lombardi of the Ringer NFL podcast pointed out, it appears that Mike Tomlin has a defensive call sheet, suggesting that he might be taking a little more hands-on approach with the defensive play-calling.