Bell, Blount carry Steelers past Panthers 37-19
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Move over, Walter Abercrombie and Earnest Jackson.
Step aside, Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, there's a new running back tandem in the Steel City.
Le'Veon Bell ran for 147 yards and LeGarrette Blount added 118 yards on the ground Sunday night as the Steelers defeated the Carolina Panthers 37-19.
Bell and Blount became the first Pittsburgh tandem to rush for 100 yards each since Abercrombie and Jackson accomplished the feat in 1986, and only the eighth time it has been done in team history. Harris and Bleier did it three times, but never combined for as many yards as Bell and Blount did against a very good Carolina defense.
"That's awesome," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "I'm sure that Steeler fans back home are going crazy because we ran the ball for 100 and had two guys do it. That's just awesome. I think it shows what we can do if we put our minds to it."
The Steelers finished with 264 yards rushing and averaged 7.8 yards per carry, a number that was aided by an 81-yard burst from Bell and a 50-yard jaunt by Blount.
"We stuck to our game plan and eventually just started popping off runs," Bell said.
What's even more impressive is it came against a Carolina defense that ranked second in the league last season in total defense and features the 2013 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Luke Kuechly.
"Our offensive line came out and played well and they created some holes too," Blount said. "They were amazing, they are great."
Blount said that is one of the reasons he signed with the Steelers as a free agent this offseason, even though they already had Bell.
"I knew that I was going to come here and get the football," Blount said. "The first couple weeks weren't big weeks for me but I knew when my time came I was going to be able to contribute and we came out here and did well."
Some things we learned from the Steelers' 37-19 win:
PROTECTION CONCERNS: Coach Ron Rivera was concerned about the lack of protection given to Cam Newton. The offensive line, which lost a number of veteran starters in the offseason, was viewed as the weak link coming into the season. They were exposed by the Steelers, who got to Newton at times with only three rushers.
Newton was sacked three times, fumbled once and hit at least a dozen more in the loss.
"The Steelers did some things that were a little bit different," Rivera said. "They hadn't done these things in their previous two games. They really did. If you go back and look at it, they did a really nice job of game planning and mixing some things up."
PANTHERS BACKS ARE HURTING: The Panthers have issues to contend with moving forward at running back. They came into the game without starting running back DeAngelo Williams (hamstring) and third-string back Fozzy Whittaker (hamstring) due to injuries. Jonathan Stewart, who replaced Williams, injured his knee and did not return. Fullback Mike Tolbert left the game with leg injury.
The Panthers elevated Darrin Reaves from the practice squad last week and Rivera said "he many have to oil it up and get ready to play football" against Baltimore next Sunday.
The Panthers are averaging just 72.3 yards per game on the ground this season.
THE BROWN ZONE: There was some question as to who Roethlisberger would look to in the red zone with Jerricho Cotchery having left via free agency. Antonio Brown seems to be emerging as that target after with a pair of 7-yard TD receptions. Brown has all three receiving touchdowns this year for the Steelers.
DEFENSIVE QUESTIONS: The Steelers will have some questions to answer on defense after losing cornerback Ike Taylor to a broken arm and Ryan Shazier (knee) and Jarvis Jones (wrist) for the game Sunday night. Taylor will be out for a while, but the Steelers will be waiting with bated breath on their linebackers.
PANTHERS NEED A RETURNER: The Panthers struggled throughout the preseason to find a returner to replace Ted Ginn Jr. They still don't have a reliable option. Undrafted rookie Philly Brown looked decent in his first start at receiver, but fumbled a punt return that the Steelers eventually fell on in the end zone for a touchdown, ruining any thoughts of a Carolina comeback.