NFL Football: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Carolina Panthers Preview, Prediction & Odds - 8/27/21

by Chuck Sommers

Game time: 7:30 p.m. ET, Aug. 27, 2021
Venue: Bank of America Stadium
Where to listen: NFL Game Pass, Westwood One, Sirius XM

Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks

DraftKings: Panthers -3, Steelers +3
BetMGM: Panthers -2.5, Steelers +2.5
FanDuel: Panthers -2.5, Steelers +2.5

Preseason record
Steelers: 3-0 (last game, won 26-20 vs. Lions)
Panthers: 0-2 (last game, lost 20-3 vs. Ravens)

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Steelers - Panthers preview and analysis (Preseason week 3)

Ben Roethlisberger looks ready to go. How about Sam Darnold?

We may get that answer when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers play in their final preseason games Friday in Charlotte.

Roethlisberger made his preseason debut Saturday in Heinz Field against the Detroit Lions and looked like he didn’t even need to take a snap. The future Hall-of-Famer went 8-for-10 for 137 yards and two first-quarter touchdowns to propel Pittsburgh’s third victory of the NFL preseason.

Both touchdowns were caught by second-round pick Pat Freiermuth, 8-yard and 11-yard scores to show the Steelers are going to have threats at every offensive position. Between JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool at receiver, they can get quality play at the edge of the line with Freiermuth and Eric Ebron.

Given this is the last tune-up, it’s unclear how much Roethlisberger will play this week. Given how he looked, they may not need the starters to play at all. The only battle is to figure out who’s backing up Roethlisberger; Dwayne Haskins and Mason Rudolph played well in their given stretches.

The Panthers are coming off a 20-3 defeat Saturday night at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens who did not have Lamar Jackson (Tyler Huntley played the whole game, going 24-of-34 for 187 yards and an interception). Carolina also did not play Darnold, their major offseason trade acquisition from the New York Jets, beyond a seven-play series. Darnold was just 1-for-2 for 16 yards.

But this should be the week we see more Darnold in Matt Rhule’s system. Darnold will be the starting quarterback come Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts, but there should be good feelings knowing Will Grier will be a serviceable backup to Darnold. Grier was 11-for-14 for 144 yards against the Ravens

Offensive analysis

We know the Steelers live and die by the air attack, but don’t discredit their running attack. Whether it be Najee Harris or Kalen Ballage, the Steelers are capable of getting those tough yards when needed. The Steelers combined for 78 yards on 27 carries, which may not seem like much. Watch how it operates come full strength.

The Panthers are obviously excited to have Christian McCaffrey back for the regular season. A healthy McCaffrey is going to help Darnold in a big way, but keep an eye on Chuba Hubbard and his deployment. The former Oklahoma State running back will be tasked with taking the load off McCaffrey to ensure he stays healthy.

Defensive analysis

Just imagine what this Steelers defense can do when not getting torched in the front seven. They hope to address that with the acquisition of Joe Schobert from the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. He joins a versatile linebacker group with T.J. Watt and Devin Bush.

The Panthers are hoping first-round pick Jaycee Horn will revamp a defense that needs some playmakers. They’ll be without A.J. Bouye (suspension, soft-tissue injury) for a few weeks, so the bulk of Carolina’s pass defense pressure will be on the rookie.


Trust the depth of the Steelers. Steelers win 27-14.

Betting trends

The Panthers are 5-19 in their last 24 against the spread when gaining 250 yards or less.

The over is 20-4 when the Steelers allow 22-28 points in their last 24 games.

Key injuries
Steelers: WR Chase Claypool (ankle, questionable)
Panthers: WR DJ Moore (back, questionable)

Players to watch

Steelers: Najee Harris is likely going to be the bellcow in the Pittsburgh backfield. Look for him to get more carries before the calendar turns from August. Harris had only four carries against Detroit. I’d expect him to get more for the finale.

Panthers: Chuba Hubbard should also see an increase in carries in the finale. Against a solid defense, this will be a great test no matter if it’s the Pittsburgh starters or depth guys.

Statistical leaders from Week 2

Passing: Ben Roethlisberger -- 8-for-10, 137 yards, 2 TD
Rushing: Kalen Ballage -- 7 carries, 30 yards
Receiving: Eric Ebron -- 4 catches, 59 yards
Defense: Miles Killebrew -- 6 tackles

Passing: Will Grier -- 11-for-14, 144 yards
Rushing: Chuba Hubbard -- 9 carries, 24 yards
Receiving: Terrance Marshall Jr. -- 3 catches, 50 yards
Defense: Josh Bynes -- 9 tackles

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Chuck Sommers

About the Author:

Chuck Sommers has camped outside of sportsbooks since he can remember, learning the tricks and nuances of the trade. He still has nightmares of betting $5,000 on the Raiders in the Tuck Rule game but has since turned that to 25 years of veteran handicapping greatness. You can find him mostly in the shadows at the Red Rock or Aliante casinos wondering if the over is cashing on any given Sunday.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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