Thursday, December 23
War Room: Panthers at Steelers
The War Room
Carolina offense vs. Pittsburgh defense
The Panthers offense is 5th overall in the NFL, thanks to QB Steve Beuerlein who's red-hot play has opened up the entire offense. With the help of WR Muhsin Muhammad and Patrick Jeffers, Beuerlein has put together prolific outings recently. On the ground, the Panthers welcome the return of Tim Biakabutuka this week against the Steelers, with hopes of adding balance to a one-sided offensive assault.
With Biakabutuka on the shelf last week, a running back-by-committee approach was used by Siefert and the Panthers. However, up front, Carolina is too weak to establish a multi-faceted running game. The Panthers will give the ball to Biakabutuka early and try to offset a Pittsburgh gameplan that will be geared to stop the pass.
Pittsburgh will be susceptible to the run this week. With Steed hobbled by his knee, expect Carolina to run right behind OC Frank Garcia. A successful running game will lure the Pittsburgh linebackers into the box and allow Beuerlein to throw to backs out of the backfield and TE Walls over the middle. It's vital that Steed and Roye penetrate Carolina's offensive line. Pittsburgh's linebackers have enough trouble covering the pass as is, committing to the run will only make things worse.
Carolina's WR's Jeffers and Muhammad have been creating mismatches for opposing cornerbacks all season. Both are playing so well that very few teams have corners good enough to stop the multi-faceted attack. Against Pittsburgh CB's Scott and Washington, the trend will continue. Scott has yet to fully recover from injury and Washington has lost a step.
Carolina TE Wesley Walls will also provide the Steeler defense with fits, because Walls will force safeties Davis and Flowers to become so concerned with his ability to work the seems that the Steeler CB's will be left on islands against Jeffers and Muhammad.
Beuerlein will be quick to locate mismatches all over the secondary and will make Pittsburgh pay for their poor coverage. The Carolina passing scheme will be too much for the Steelers undermanned secondary, as the Panthers have too many weapons at their disposal within their passing game.Pittsburgh offense vs. Carolina defense
The Pittsburgh offense is ranked 24th overall and spiraling out of control. Carolina's defense isn't playing good football either, ranking 27th in the NFL, and the problems are coming both on land and through the air. Kevin Green is being exposed, because opposing offenses are now running at him and catching him playing undisciplined football, flying upfield. In the secondary, CB Eric Davis is continually giving up big plays, keeping enemy ball clubs in games.
Bill Cower has his back against the wall and is capable of anything this week. Look for RB Richard Huntley to carry the ball a lot this against Carolina, because Hunley has been effective running against zealous defenders. Cower will be sending Huntley in Green's direction, hoping to catch the aggressive LB out of position. Carolina's defensive front hasn't been playing well against the run between the tackles, but the Steelers are particularly weak in this area, with injuries decimating their offensive line.
QB Mike Tomczak is moving the offense, but he's throwing costly interceptions and eliminating scoring opportunities. His ability to see the whole field has led to several different Steeler receivers catching balls in recent weeks. Tomczak has been throwing short pass patterns without great accuracy, which could be a major problem against the Carolina's aggressive corners.
Tomczak has also repeatedly missed WR Troy Edwards when throwing vertically, but he cannot abandon this approach against Carolina CB Eric Davis. Davis has been trying to get more aggressive by creating contact with receivers off the line, but he's lost a step and cannot make up for his mistakes. Edwards is too quick off the LOS for Davis to press on him when applying man coverage. If Davis chooses to try and get physical with Edwards when in coverage, it will be up to Tomczak to make the play, because Edwards will be open.
Carolina ranks 25th in the NFL against the pass. If the Steeler offensive line can keep LDE Christian Peter from disrupting Tomczak's release, and keep the tight ends and backs in the middle of the field, Tomczak will have the time to pick apart the Panthers defensive secondary.Special teams
Muhammad is fresh off of a three-TD performance and is a legitimate big-play threat. Opposing quarterbacks of late have targeted Washington and, with DC Chad Scott healthy on the other side of the field, the Panthers will test him early. Washington needs to play up to par and eliminate the big play, keeping the Carolina offense from opening up.
Tomczak's arm is as ragged as ever, lacking any real zip. Look for Minter to hide out in zone coverage, only to sneak up on lofty Tomczak throws over the middle. Minter will use his instincts and sharp angles to get between Steeler receivers and the ball.
Walls has been hot all season long, continually stretching opposing coverage by working the seams of the field. The Pittsburgh LB's are a big group and will have to keep the pass-catching tight end in front of them to keep him in check. Carolina will win if...
Pittsburgh will win if...
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