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Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers: Two hot teams meet Thursday

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) calls out a play against the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth quarter on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

By The Sports Xchange

Two hot teams meet at Heinz Field on Thursday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers (6-2) have won three in a row, including Sunday's 42-28 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Steelers (5-2-1) have won four straight after knocking off the Baltimore Ravens 23-16 on the road.

The Steelers turned their season around when the defense started to play better. They have allowed no more than 21 points in any of the past four games, including a strong effort in Baltimore Sunday when they allowed a season-low 16 points.

"We are growing every day," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. "Guys are getting better. Technically, they are growing in terms of knowledge, they are growing in terms of situational understanding and when you do those things you make plays, and you minimize negativity and those two things happen at the same time. Hopefully we've made a few plays and hopefully we've prevented a few plays with that approach."

That defense will be tested by Carolina, which has put up 78 points over its past two games against the Ravens and Buccaneers and has scored 30 points or more in four of its past six games.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is playing well again. He ranks 10th in the league in passer rating, and during the three-game winning streak he has completed 69.9 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions. Newton has also run for 342 yards on 73 carries this season.

Running back Christian McCaffrey has become the all-purpose back the Panthers had hoped he would become. He has 880 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.

"You should start with Cam Newton because he can run it, he can throw it," Tomlin said. "He's strong. He can make all the throws with accuracy from a distance standpoint well. But I really think what's going on with him is just looking at the infusion of roles between what he and McCaffrey are able to do.

"They're multi-dimensional players that really perform really well together. McCaffrey's playing more snaps I think than any other offensive player in football. He leads them in receptions, he's a rushing threat, as is Cam Newton. The way that those two guys operate and the things that [offensive coordinator] Norv Turner is able to do with those two guys is really creating issues for their opponents and particularly of late."

Turner has been expanding the playbook lately, using trick plays more often.

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Sports News: Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers: Two hot teams meet Thursday
Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers: Two hot teams meet Thursday
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