Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Carolina Panthers: Prediction, preview, statistics to know for 'Thursday Night Football'

This week’s book of ‘Thursday Night Football’ should be a damn good one. The 5-2-1 Pittsburgh Steelers are rolling and once again demeanour like one of a best teams in a AFC, and on Thursday night they play horde to a 6-2 Carolina Panthers, who demeanour like one of a best teams in a NFC. 

Pittsburgh leads a AFC North and certainly wants to equivocate a detriment that could hit them behind if a Bengals conduct to get a win on Sunday. The Panthers, meanwhile, are still a diversion behind a 7-1 Saints, and need a win in sequence to keep gait in a NFC South and potentially get a home diversion or dual in a playoffs. 

Luckily for football fans, we’ll get to see a ton of stars on both sides of a round do battle, in sold some of a best quarterbacks (Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton), using backs (James Conner, Christian McCaffrey), and far-reaching receivers (Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster) in a NFL. That’s a whole lot of descent talent on a field, going behind and onward perplexing to measure opposite a integrate clever defenses personification good of late. 

How will things shake out Thursday night (8:20 p.m., NFL Network, stream on fuboTV)? We’re blissful we asked. 

When a Steelers have a ball

Le’Veon Bell has still not reported to a Steelers. The Steelers still have not missed him all that much. 

Pittsburgh ranks fourth in a NFL in yards per game, ninth in points per game, and eighth in efficiency, per Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Last year, a Steelers ranked third, eighth, and third in a same measurements. Bell’s backup, James Conner, has been flat-out improved this deteriorate than Bell himself was a year ago. In 2017, Bell averaged 27.1 touches per game, with averages of 4.8 yards per hold and 129.7 sum yards per game. This season, Conner is averaging 23.6 touches per game, with averages of 5.7 yards per hold and 135.6 sum yards per game. Conner has 10 sum touchdowns in 8 games, usually one fewer than Bell had in 15 games final year. Conner has 4 apart games of 100-plus yards and dual touchdowns on a ground, that is one some-more than Bell has in his whole career. 

Defenses might not be utterly as “scared” of Conner as they are of Bell, nonetheless Conner has been some-more effective on a belligerent (4.7 yards per lift compared to Bell’s 4.0 final year) notwithstanding confronting built boxes with eight-plus defenders distant some-more mostly than Bell did a year ago. According to NFL.com’s NextGen Stats, 19.94 percent of Bell’s carries in 2017 came opposite an eight-man box or more, while 30.46 percent of Conner’s carries have come opposite eight-plus-man boxes. 

Which side of a Panthers vs. Steelers widespread should we burst on? And what outrageous x-factor creates one side a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see that side of a widespread we need to burst on, all from a seasoned consultant who’s 4-0 picking Steelers games as partial of his 32-12 NFL heater. 

Conner could be set adult for a tough night opposite a Carolina invulnerability this week, however. It’d be his initial tough night in a while. The Panthers arrange seventh in rush invulnerability DVOA, per Football Outsiders, and have been one of a toughest defenses in terms of holding down using backs in a flitting game. They’ve authorised 33 catches to using backs, sixth-fewest in a NFL, and usually 217 receiving yards to a position, that ranks third-fewest. Then again, Conner usually tore adult a Baltimore invulnerability that is one of a NFL’s best opposite using backs to a balance of 163 sum yards and dual touchdowns. That was 4 days ago. So, maybe he’s usually matchup-proof during this point. 

The some-more engaging conflict could come in a flitting game. Ben Roethlisberger is one of a many well-protected quarterbacks in the, nonetheless a Panthers are among a NFL leaders in hurries (10th), hits (fourth), knockdowns (12th), and sum pressures (fifth), according to Sports Info Solutions. Unpressured quarterbacks, though, have been means to find some success opposite a Carolina secondary. Overall, a Panthers have authorised opponents to finish improved than 65 percent of their passes during an normal of 7.2 yards per attempt. In particular, Panthers defensive backs have been picked on in male coverage, according to SIS.  

The Steelers, of course, have dual of a best receivers in football, and maybe dual of a receivers best-suited to work opposite this Carolina secondary. JuJu Smith-Schuster lines adult in a container on scarcely 80 percent of his routes; a Panthers have been flamed by container receivers all year — generally lately. Tyler Boyd (6-132-1), Adam Humphries (8-82-0), Sterling Shepard (4-75-0), and Cole Beasley (7-73-0) have all left off opposite a Captain Munnerlyn-led container coverage. Carolina has authorised 87 catches for 988 yards and 7 scores to container wideouts, per SIS. Antonio Brown, meanwhile, seems expected to see shade coverage from underrated dilemma James Bradberry. Bradberry is one of a most-targeted cornerbacks in a league, as usually a Chiefs’ Steven Nelson has been thrown during some-more often. He has been good if not indispensably good in coverage, permitting an 86.1 passer rating on throws in his direction. Bradberry does not mostly transport to a slot, so it’ll be engaging to see how coverage changes as Brown moves around a formation. 

Tight ends Vance McDonald and Jesse James, meanwhile, could play large roles in a flitting diversion as well. The Panthers have authorised some-more catches by parsimonious ends this deteriorate than any group in football, and a 127.84 passer rating on throws to a position — fourth-highest in a league. 

When a Panthers have a ball

The Steelers’ ability to find good success in a deficiency of Le’Veon Bell has been one of a season’s biggest surprises, nonetheless a Panthers’ presentation as one of the funnest offenses in a NFL is also on that list. The employing of Norv Turner as descent coordinator was panned in many circles given a stodgy inlet of his offense in new stops, nonetheless Turner has reinvented himself and has been one of a tiny handful of many artistic play-callers in a joining this season. Turner has figured out a best ways to use Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey, Devin Funchess, and D.J. Moore, and did an glorious pursuit reincorporation Greg Olsen on a fly after a star parsimonious finish returned from a regularity of his feet damage that cropped adult in a initial diversion of a deteriorate and kept him out for several weeks after.

McCaffrey was in a full-on timeshare final deteriorate and spasmodic went full games though creation an impact. That has not been a box this year, as he’s mostly been used as a loyal underline back, averaged 19.8 touches per game. He has not suffered a drop in potency even with a rising use (12.3 touches per diversion final year), and is in fact averaging some-more yards per hold this deteriorate than he did a year ago (5.6 per hold to 5.5 per touch). Pittsburgh indeed ranks initial in DVOA opposite using backs in a flitting diversion this season, per Football Outsiders, and has authorised usually 32 completions for 195 yards, dual touchdowns, and an interception on 45 throws to players during a position. The Panthers pierce McCaffrey all around a arrangement and make touches for him on jet sweeps and screens so it’s probable he could still mangle a long-gainer if they figure out a approach to use a Pittsburgh defense’s aggressiveness opposite it. 

Conversely, a Steelers’ invulnerability has struggled badly opposite parsimonious ends, indicating that Greg Olsen, who has been heating up, could be in line for a large night. Olsen was still for a integrate weeks after returning from damage nonetheless has left for 4-56-1 and 6-76-1 over a past dual weeks. His ability to widen a margin plumb adult a same is as ideal a fit for Newton’s personification character as it has always been, and they have found a stroke over a past dual weeks. The Steelers, meanwhile, are 26th in DVOA opposite parsimonious ends, and have authorised 53 catches for 584 yards and 4 touchdowns to a position. They’ve been ripped adult over a center of a field, where Olsen tends to eat. 

On a perimeter, there should be a one-on-one conflict waged between Funchess and Joe Haden for many of a night. Funchess is carrying his best NFL season, averaging career-highs in receptions (4.5) and yards (55.6) per game, as good as locate rate (65.5 percent). His season-highs of 7 catches and 77 yards don’t burst off a page nonetheless Newton has been means to count on him when he needs a initial down or drive-extending play, as 28 of his 36 grabs have left for initial downs, per SIS. Among 146 players with 25-plus targets, that first-down rate of 77.8 percent ranks 15th in a league. 

Beyond those 3 players, Newton does not have a sold aim he seems to place a ton of trust in. Jarius Wright, Torrey Smith, rookie D.J. Moore, and second-year male Curtis Samuel have all had their moments, nonetheless nothing has forged out a unchanging place in a offense usually yet. Turner has been means to pattern ways for Moore and Samuel in sold to get into open space, that is pivotal for players with their ability sets. Leveraging a courtesy paid to McCaffrey and Olsen in sequence to get them an event during a cocktail play would be a correct thought opposite a Steelers. 

Prediction: Steelers 27, Panthers 23

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