Final

Steelers 37

(7-7, 2-5 away)

Panthers 3

(6-8, 4-4 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, December 17, 2006

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC 

1 2 3 4 T
PIT 0 17 10 1037
CAR 0 3 0 03

Top Performers

Passing: C. Weinke (CAR) - 170 YDS, 1 INT

Rushing: W. Parker (PIT) - 23 CAR, 132 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: H. Ward (PIT) - 4 REC, 59 YDS

Parker fuels Steelers' rout of reeling Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- It may be too late, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are finally playing like last season's Super Bowl team.

Willie Parker rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown and Ben Roethlisberger threw for a score and ran for another to lead Pittsburgh past the Carolina Panthers 37-3 on Sunday, delighting the thousands of their loyal fans who turned Bank of America Stadium into a virtual Steelers home game.

Scouts Inc.'s take ...
Simply put, the Steelers dominated every phase of this football game and took the fight out of the Carolina Panthers. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt's game plan was to pound the rock with RB Willie Parker (above) to set up the play-action pass. QB Ben Roethlisberger continues to play with a lot of poise.

Defensively, the Steelers shutdown the Panthers' running game while attacking the pocket with multiple-zone pressure that disrupted QB Chris Weinke. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau loaded up the box while being physical on the outside. His disguises on the back end in coverage never allowed Weinke to find any consistent rhythm.

The Steelers (7-7) also blocked a punt and returned another for a touchdown as they won their third straight game and kept their faint playoff hopes alive. The Steelers, who started 2-6, have allowed 13 points in the past three games.

"We've been there before. We've played on the road in December and we've played on the road in January," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said. "This football team knows that mind-set you have to have to win."

It's still going to be difficult for the Steelers to make the playoffs, but Carolina's chances are virtually over after it turned in another stinker.

Chris Weinke, starting for the second straight week because of Jake Delhomme's thumb injury, threw for 170 yards and an interception and was sacked five times for the Panthers (6-8), who lost their fourth straight game and rank as one of the NFL season's biggest busts.

"It's embarrassing. I feel bad for our owner, obviously, to have paid for the talent we displayed on the field," receiver Keyshawn Johnson said.

Injuries continued to plague Carolina, as defensive end Mike Rucker left in the second quarter with a knee injury and receiver Drew Carter was knocked out in the third with a bad ankle.

The offensive line, without injured guard Mike Wahle (shoulder), gave Weinke little time to throw as he fell to 1-16 as a starter.

The Panthers were also limited to eight yards rushing in the first half and 43 for the game.

"We're just not a very good football team right now and it showed today," Panthers coach John Fox said.

But the Steelers are hitting stride behind Parker, who grew up nearby and was a little-used running back in college at North Carolina. He ran all over his local team, including a 41-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to put it away.

"I never did anything in the state of North Carolina before, so you know how much that meant to me, coming back and playing the Panthers," Parker said.

That touchdown run produced big cheers, with nearly half the crowd rooting for the Steelers and thousands waving yellow Terrible Towels.

The ratio grew when many Carolina fans left at halftime with Pittsburgh leading 17-3.

"It is frustrating that fans give their tickets away and the other teams get that many fans," Panthers fullback Brad Hoover said. "But in reality we just have to deal with it. Right now we're not playing very good football and when you don't play well, people don't want to come watch you."

Pittsburgh's lead grew to 27-3 on Parker's run and 34-3 on Santonio Holmes' 65-yard punt return early in the fourth quarter. In a telling sequence to sum up the Panthers' season, Holmes' touchdown came after Carolina recovered a muffed punt deep in Pittsburgh territory, only to have the play wiped out by a penalty.

In the fourth quarter, rookie Anthony Smith intercepted Weinke and high-stepped out of bounds while holding the ball by his ear. The hot dog move led to a shoving match between several players and a lecture to Smith from Cowher.

"I didn't appreciate his gesture," Cowher said. "We don't do that around here. He understood that. You won't ever see that again."

Roethlisberger, who was 11-of-18 for 140 yards and went over 3,000 yards passing for the first time, was replaced by Charlie Batch late in the game.

After going three-and-out on their first three possessions, the Steelers took control.

Five plays after Rucker was helped off the field, Roethlisberger hooked up with Najeh Davenport for an 18-yard pass play on third-and-12. Roethlisberger followed with a 1-yard touchdown run off a bootleg on the first play of the second quarter.

Jeff Reed's 19-yard field goal midway through the second quarter made it 10-0.

Then after another three-and-out for Carolina, James Harrison smothered Jason Baker's punt deep in Carolina territory, the Steelers' first blocked punt since Sept. 2002.

Three plays later Roethlisberger threw a screen pass to Davenport, who rumbled down the center of the field for a 13-yard touchdown and a 17-0 lead.

John Kasay's 37-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half gave the Panthers their only points.

"We allowed a team to come in here, that was playing for nothing, and ruin our season for us," Johnson said. "That's not what I signed up for."

Game notes


The Steelers have won 11 of 12 games against NFC teams. ... Panthers tight end Kris Mangum (hip) and running back Nick Goings (shoulder) did not play. ... Steelers S Troy Polamalu (knee) sat out his third straight game.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
PIT
CAR
1st Downs2012
Passing 1st downs
1111
Rushing 1st downs
81
1st downs from penalties
10
3rd down efficiency
10-173-13
4th down efficiency
1-11-2
Total Plays6655
Total Yards306240
Yards per play4.64.4
Total Drives1211
Passing147197
Comp-Att
13-2024-39
Yards per pass
6.44.5
Interceptions thrown
02
Sacks-Yards Lost
3-225-29
Rushing15943
Rushing Attempts
4311
Yards per rush
3.73.9
Red Zone (Made-Att)2-40-2
Penalties2-108-65
Turnovers02
Fumbles lost
00
Interceptions thrown
02
Defensive / Special Teams TDs10
Possession37:1322:47

Passing Leaders

PITC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Roethlisberger10/171257.4103-22
Batch2/22311.5000-0
CARC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Weinke18/281706.1015-29
Basanez6/11565.1010-0

Rushing Leaders

PITCARYDSAVGTDLG
Parker231325.7141
Davenport11141.306
CARCARYDSAVGTDLG
Foster7426.0029
Basanez122.002

Receiving Leaders

PITRECYDSAVGTDLG
Ward45914.8021
Davenport23115.5118
CARRECYDSAVGTDLG
Smith Sr.55611.2019
Gaines45413.5019

Scoring Summary

SECOND QUARTERPITCAR
pitTD15:00Ben Roethlisberger, 1 yd run (Jeff Reed kick is good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 63 yds, 3:13
70
pitFG4:29Jeff Reed 19 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 13 plays, 84 yds, 5:47
100
pitTD2:00Najeh Davenport, 13 yd pass from Ben Roethlisberger (Jeff Reed kick is good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 10 yds, 1:01
170
carFG0:07John Kasay 37 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 8 plays, 52 yds, 1:50
173
THIRD QUARTERPITCAR
pitFG4:45Jeff Reed 45 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 12 plays, 63 yds, 7:49
203
pitTD0:20Willie Parker, 41 yd run (Jeff Reed kick is good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 67 yds, 3:56
273
FOURTH QUARTERPITCAR
pitTD14:44Santonio Holmes, 65 yd punt return (Jeff Reed kick is good)
Drive info: 3 plays, -6 yds, 0:46
343
pitFG4:05Jeff Reed 26 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 13 plays, 32 yds, 9:20
373