Pan­thers (6-2) at Steel­ers (5-2-1)

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS -

Time, TV: 8:20 p.m. ET Thurs­day, Fox and NFL Net­work Pregame.com line: Steel­ers by 4 Pan­thers’ keys: Carolina must find a way to slow down the Steel­ers, par­tic­u­larly RB James Con­ner. The Pan­thers need to sus­tain drives and trust in QB Cam New­ton and RB Chris­tian McCaf­frey to take ad­van­tage of an im­prov­ing but in­con­sis­tent Pitts­burgh de­fense. Steel­ers’ keys: The goal is to keep do­ing what they have been do­ing dur­ing their four-game win­ning streak. That means run­ning the ball with Con­ner and stop­ping Carolina’s rush­ing at­tack. Matchup to watch: Pan­thers QB Cam New­ton vs. Steel­ers QB Ben Roeth­lis­berger. Both el­e­vate the play of their team­mates and are in­cred­i­ble on-field lead­ers. It will come down to which one makes the big plays. Who wins? The Steel­ers have so much mo­men­tum, it is hard to see them los­ing at home in a na­tion­ally tele­vised game. Pitts­burgh’s of­fense is elite, but it is the im­prove­ment on de­fense that will be the dif­fer­ence. Steel­ers, 35-24

Game pre­view by Curt Pope­joy of The Steel­ers Wire, a USA TO­DAY Sports Me­dia Group af­fil­i­ate

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