PITTSBURGH – When head coach Ron Rivera breaks the team down in the locker room after a tough loss, he's typically the only one who speaks.
But linebacker Luke Kuechly had a few things to say after Carolina suffered a 52-21 defeat to the Steelers at Heinz Field on Thursday night.
Rivera told the players they would report back on Tuesday after a long weekend away from football, and Kuechly wanted to reiterate the importance of using those few days wisely.
He implored his teammates to come back ready to roll. He doesn't want that first day back to be a waste of a practice where everyone simply gets back into things. No, the Panthers, especially after a loss like the one they suffered in Pittsburgh, need to hit the ground running.
"I thought it was good – it was needed," tight end Greg Olsen said of Kuechly's message. "Hopefully it's something guys listened to and paid attention to."
Kuechly explained why he made his voice heard before exiting the visitors' locker room.
"We're still in a good spot. We're 6-3 and that's a good place to be after nine games. But the second half of the season is where it really counts," Kuechly said. "We have a break here and you have to take advantage of it, but you also can't be stupid."
Kuechly and his defensive teammates take a lot of pride in being a stingy unit. The fact that they were part of a performance that saw the Steelers put up 52 points, which ties a Panthers' record for most in a single game, doesn't sit well at all.
And while one loss doesn't define a 16-game season, the fact that Kuechly spoke up lets you know this is a fork in the road moment for Carolina, going from three straight wins and riding high to a brutal loss on a national stage.
"We have a really good football team," Kuechly said. "We have to come back next week with the right mindset to work and get a win."
View game action photos from the Panthers 52-21 loss against the Steelers on Thursday Night Football.