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Know Your Foe: Pittsburgh Steelers


CHARLOTTE – The Panthers' playoff hopes are still in front of them after a victory at Seattle, and they're looking to extend their first winning streak of the season to three.

Carolina (5-8) hosts the Steelers (5-8) at Bank of America Stadium this Sunday for a 1 p.m. kickoff.

The Panthers are 1-6 all-time against Pittsburgh and haven't won since their first-ever matchup in 1996, which was at home. 

Here's what to know about the Steelers:


Pittsburgh was rolling with rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett after benching Mitch Trubisky early in the season. But Pickett left last week's loss to Baltimore early in concussion protocol, opening the door for Trubisky.

Trubisky put up 276 yards on 22-of-30 passing with a touchdown, but he made pivotal mistakes against the Ravens. He threw three interceptions, all in the red zone, in an eventual 16-14 loss.

"You just can't turn the ball over, particularly in the nature of this matchup," Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said. "Usually, the team that turns the ball over in the red area is the team that loses. They've turned it over some in the red area in recent matchups, and we've won those games. We turned it over in the red area in this one, so we lost this one."

Pickett's status for the Panthers matchup isn't certain, but Trubisky's miscues could potentially open the door for Rock Hill's Mason Rudolph. Rudolph hasn't played a snap this year after starting 10 of the last 17 games he played in the last three seasons, but he told the team’s website Monday that he's prepared for any situation.

"I've tried to stay consistent all year," he said. "Whether that's the film aspect or just prepping, doing what I can to help the two other guys prepare. … I don't get a lot of reps in practice but finding time to throw here and there during special teams and (individual). Just put more pressure on myself to be perfect in individual and those short periods I do have."

Pat Freiermuth


The Steelers hadn't been a prolific scoring offense with either quarterback, as they average 17.5 points per game, the league's sixth-lowest mark.

They aren't without weapons, including tight end Pat Freiermuth, averaging 11.7 yards per reception and 630 total yards on the year with two touchdowns. Pittsburgh's leading receiver is Diontae Johnson, who has put up 647 yards on 67 catches, and George Pickens has added 590 yards on 40 catches with two touchdowns in his first year in the league. 

Running back Najee Harris paces the offense in scoring with five touchdowns this season. He has totaled 704 yards on 187 attempts, averaging 3.8 yards per carry one year after his rookie Pro Bowl campaign.

Pittsburgh has to protect the ball to win games. The Steelers are 0-7 when the offense turns the ball over and 5-1 when it doesn't. Pickett has thrown eight picks on the year, and Trubisky added three last week to bring his total up to five.

Alex Highsmith


The Steelers were undone physically in the Ravens loss, allowing a season-high 215 rush yards last week. Their opponents have averaged 115.8 rush yards this season, 15th in the NFL.

Pittsburgh is 2-4 in games where the defense has allowed 120 rush yards or more. They have defeated only the Bengals in a Week 1 overtime matchup and the Falcons in Week 13 when their run defense isn't up to par. 

The Steelers are still waiting for four-time Pro Bowl linebacker T.J. Watt to return to form since getting back in Week 10 from pectoral and knee injuries. He has totaled 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and 18 tackles this year. Wilmington, N.C.-native and Charlotte 49ers product Alex Highsmith leads Pittsburgh's pass rush with 10.0 sacks and four forced fumbles. 

Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is a bright spot in the Steelers' secondary, tallying four interceptions with one returned for a touchdown this season against Cincinnati. He's second on the team with 74 tackles, as linebacker Myles Jack leads the way with 100 tackles this year.

The Steelers lead the all-time series against the Panthers, 6-1.

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