Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers (-3,
The Carolina Panthers will be without Greg Hardy but they
expect a ferocious defense to remain their calling card as they
prepare to host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. The
Panthers have allowed an NFC-low 21 points in winning their
first two games, even though the Pro Bowl defensive end was
deactivated last week stemming from his involvement in a
domestic assault case. Hardy had 15 sacks last season but was
placed on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list.
Defense used to be the calling card of the Steelers, but the
once-proud unit appears in need of a serious overall after
getting manhandled in last week’s 26-6 loss at archrival
Baltimore. Since a stirring first half in the season opener in
which Pittsburgh built a 24-point halftime lead over Cleveland,
the Steelers have managed only three field goals while
surrendering 50 points. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,”
veteran cornerback Ike Taylor cautioned. “We do have to get
better overall. As a group, we have to look back and correct
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.
LINE HISTORY: Some shops opened the Panthers as
3.5-point home faves, but most are now dealing -3. The total is
up to 42 from an opening 41.
INJURY REPORT: Steelers – WR Lance Moore
(Questionable, groin), RB Dri Archer (Questionable, ankle), NT
Steven McLendon (Questionable, shoulder).
Panthers – RB DeAngelo Williams (Probable,
thigh), T Garry Williams (Probable, hip), WR Kelvin Benjamin
(Probable, knee), FB Mike Tolbert (Probable, chest), TE Greg
Olsen (Probable, calf), WR Jason Avant (Questionable,
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Steelers (+1.5) + Panthers
(-2.75) + home field (-3.0) = Panthers -7.25
WEATHER: Temperatures will be in the low-70s
with clear skies.
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “Pittsburgh is playing its
second-straight primetime road game. Steelers have covered
seven of last eight as road dogs versus opponents off SU/ATS
win. The Panthers are riding an eight-game home winning streak
during the regular season and have covered all seven games when
favored by single digits.” Covers
Expert Matt Fargo.
CHEERLEADER WAR: Since the Steelers don’t have
cheerleaders, here’s WR Antonio Brown’s girlfriend Shameika
Brailsford to fill the void.
ABOUT THE STEELERS (1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS, 1-1 O/U):
After barely holding off a furious comeback in a 30-27 opening
win over the Browns, Pittsburgh was unable to cope with a
punishing ground game for the second straight week and ranks
30th in rushing yards allowed (174.0). Ben Roethlisberger
followed up a 365-yard performance in Week 1 by throwing for
only 217 yards and an interception versus Baltimore. The one
constant for the Steelers has been second-year running back
Le’Veon Bell, who has rushed for 168 yards and caught 11 passes
for 136 more in the two games. “It’s definitely something I
take pride in, being an all-around back,” Bell said Wednesday
after practice. “I still look at myself as a running back who
can catch the ball.”
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS, 0-2 O/U):
Cam Newton returned to the lineup after missing the
season-opening 20-14 victory at Tampa Bay and guided Carolina
to a 24-7 win over Detroit by throwing for 281 yards and a TD
on 22-of-34. With the top four wide receivers from last season
gone, tight end Greg Olsen has been the top target with 14
receptions while first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin is
averaging 17.3 yards on his eight catches. DeAngelo Williams
sat out last week and did not practice again Thursday, putting
oft-injured Jonathan Stewart in line for another start after
gaining 37 yards on 15 carries a week ago. The Panthers, who
ranked second in points allowed (15.1) last season, had four
sacks without Hardy last week and seven on the season.
* Steelers are 5-0 ATS in their last five meetings.
* Under is 6-0 in Panthers last six games in Week 3.
* Steelers are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games overall.
* Panthers are 7-1-1 ATS in their last nine home games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: 61 percent of wagers on Covers
Consensus are backing the Panthers.