Ready or not, here it comes

CHARLOTTE – On the one hand, with the way the Panthers are playing right now, they can't wait to play again.

On the other hand, Thursday Night Football waits for no one.

"Things are going to happen quick this week," linebacker Luke Kuechly said after the Panthers went through a walkthrough late Monday in preparation for the first primetime game of the season Thursday in Pittsburgh.

"Monday is already over, and then you have Tuesday and we leave Wednesday. In a normal week, Wednesday is the first day you really dive in. It's going to be more accelerated. We have to make sure mentally that we're on the same page."

And they have to make sure that physically they're ready to go, not an easy task given the toll the NFL grind can take.

"It's Thursday Night Football so it's a quick turnaround, but it's a quick turnaround for both teams," cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. "I'm sure a lot of people have nicks and bruises, but we can't use that as an excuse. We've still got to go out there and play Panthers style football.

"You've got to take care of your body. Everything's got to be mental this week. You can't fly around in practice. You've got to get ready mentally so that come Thursday you can fly around."

Munnerlyn couldn't be more excited for the showdown. The Panthers have won three consecutive games to improve to 6-2, and now they'll visit a Steelers team that has recovered from a shaky start to win four in a row and sit at 5-2-1.

"It's an opportunity for us to go out there and show everybody that we're for real," Munnerlyn said. "The 6-2 record is not a fluke. It's an opportunity to show everybody that we're something serious."

Munnerlyn said he embraces such moments, games when "the whole world is watching."

Kuechly, who grew up in Cincinnati and watched countless Bengals games against the Steelers, will be playing a regular season game at Heinz Field for the first time. He's far from alone in that regard: Carolina's last regular season game in Pittsburgh was in 2010.

"We've played up there in the preseason at night, and it's been cool, but I imagine it's going to be ratcheted up," Kuechly said. "There will be tons of energy in that place. It's kind of fun to go up and play in an environment like that."

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