Posted on November 6, 2018, by Travis Pulver
With how James Conner has played the last few weeks, the anticipation for the return of Le’Veon Bell isn’t as high anymore. While he hasn’t always looked great, the last four weeks have seen Conner fill the Bell void to perfection.
However, he has only played well against one good defense (Ravens, last week). Can he keep up the production against another good one this week in Carolina? The Panthers will certainly not make it easy for him.
But do they have enough to slow him down?
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Conner has come on strong during the last four weeks with 689 total yards on 108 touches (88 carries, 20 receptions). Of course, with his production on the rise, that means Ben Roethlisberger’s has been on the decline. But since the team is winning does it matter who is producing?
Over on the other sideline, there is no question who generates the yards on offense—quarterback Cam Newton. He has since his rookie season and still does despite all the hits and contact he takes. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t.
So far this season he is producing about 75 percent of the yards the Panthers have generated on offense. With a record of 6-2, it is probably safe to say this is one of those times where it is working. Of course, it helps when your defense is a top-ten unit (No. 8 in total yards allowed; No. 7 against the run).
But if it isn’t broke, then why bother fixing it—right? Christian McCaffrey helps with over 100 total yards from scrimmage a game. Ideally, it would be nice to see a running back doing a significant bulk of the work in the run game. But the Panthers appear to be okay with the status quo.
However, that means all a team needs to do to stop the Panthers is disrupt Newton’s game. That is easier said than done, of course, but it has been done. Pittsburgh has the personnel to do it—but will have to be flawless in their execution.
The Panthers are a much more capable offense than many people like to give them credit for, but they still have one inherent flaw. Too much revolves around Cam Newton. While that has not been an issue for most of the season, the Steelers defense is good enough to make life difficult for him.
Carolina will have some success on offense, but not enough. They will also have a moderate amount of success on defense. But between James Conner, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers have too many offensive weapons for the Panthers to stop.
Conner will have his work cut out for him to reach 100 yards on the ground this week, but he will come close. The game will be close at the end of the first half, but the Steelers will gradually pound their way to a nice lead by the time the fourth quarter starts.
So, take the Steelers to win over the Panthers and cover the spread (5.5 points).