PITTSBURGH – Quarterback Cam Newton didn't sugarcoat it after Carolina suffered a humbling 52-21 loss in Pittsburgh on Thursday Night Football.
"We got whooped, man," Newton said.
It's easy to forget the Panthers actually led this game after a nine-play, 75-yard game-opening drive culminated with a 20-yard touchdown pass to running Christian McCaffrey to give the visitors an early lead.
"We wanted to start fast, we scored on the first drive," Newton said, "and then all of the sudden…"
Pittsburgh's first play went for a 75-yard touchdown.
Then the first play of Carolina's ensuing drive resulted in a pick-six.
"It kind of came crashing down on us there," tight end Greg Olsen said.
Before tossing the pick, Newton took the snap from his own 12-yard line and was pressured by outside linebacker T.J. Watt in the Panthers' end zone, creating a less than ideal scenario.
"I was just trying to throw the ball away. When you are getting slung around you can't really control the accuracy," Newton said. "I didn't know if I was in the end zone or not and I didn't want to get an intentional grounding.
"The first person I saw was Greg and I was just trying to throw it at his feet. The ball takes off in ways you don't want it to."
Newton's errant pass went right to linebacker Vince Williams, who returned the interception 17 yards for a touchdown.
Pittsburgh took the lead and never looked back.
"Our nose was bleeding early on and we just had to stop it," Newton said.
The Panthers were the ones who drew first blood but the Steelers stopped their bleeding in no time.
"A big thing for us is we always want to answer scores," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.
The Panthers were down 24-7 before they found the end zone again courtesy of another McCaffrey touchdown reception.
"It was just a domino effect," said Newton, who was sacked a season-high five times as the Steelers pinned their ears back and blitzed relentlessly. "We just got outplayed today."
Roethlisberger was the clear winner of the highly-anticipated quarterback duel against Newton.
The Steelers quarterback completed 22-of-25 passes for 328 yards and five touchdowns for a perfect passer rating of 158.3 – the first time the Panthers have allowed a perfect rating.
Roethlisberger displayed a lot of the traits Newton raved about earlier in the week, scanning the field and extending plays before finding the right place to go with the football.
And it's not like Newton played poorly. He completed 23-of-29 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns with the one costly interception for a 103.0 passer rating. It's his sixth game of the season with a passer rating over 100 (he had five all of last year).
But on this night, that wasn't close to enough to compete with Big Ben and the high-octane Steelers.
"It was a learning experience for a lot of guys," Newton said. "If we expect to be as good as we expect to be, we have to find ways to win games like this in hostile environments."
Newton said after Carolina's Week 6 loss at Washington that his days of sobbing are over, and he sounded like a veteran who has some scars from lopsided losses.
That's the reality of the NFL, and as the leader of a 6-3 football team that just had its three-game win streak snapped, Newton will have to put those lessons to use after taking this one on the chin.
"I've been playing in this league long enough to understand that you need to fight through games like this," Newton said. "You are going to have these types of games in the league, but it's going to be about how we rebound.
"We'll bounce back from this."