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Old 12-23-2010, 09:48 AM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Steelers-Panthers key matchups

Steelers-Panthers key matchups
http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sp...-matchups.html
By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times

Thursday December 23, 2010 12:10 AM

JOHNSON vs. ADAMS

One of the bright spots for the hapless Panthers this year has been the play of Charles Johnson, their left defensive end. A back-up for his first three pro seasons he’s started all 14 games for the Panthers as the replacement for Julius Peppers.

Peppers, the second overall pick of the 2002 draft, had been the Panthers’ best player in their first 15 years of existence. Over the past eight seasons, Peppers recorded 81 sacks for Carolina. But after the 2009 season, Peppers wanted out of Carolina and signed a free-agent deal with the Chicago Bears.

Johnson, a third-round pick in 2007, has 9.5 sacks this season (that’s 1.5 more than Peppers). Tonight, the 24-year-old Johnson will line up across Flozell Adams, the Steelers’ 35-year-old right tackle. Adams has been hobbled at times this season with a nagging sprained ankle. But he’s yet to miss a start and has played well, especially when run blocking.

STEWART vs. STEELERS’ RUN DEFENSE

In the days leading up to the 2008 NFL Draft, there was speculation that the Steelers might take Jonathan Stewart. He's a big back at 5-foot-11 and 235 pounds with the build of a fullback and the speed of a sprinter. As a junior at Oregon, he rushed for 1,722 yards and was considered college football's most complete back.

But Stewart didn’t last until pick 23 of the first round when the Steelers drafted Rashard Mendenhall. Stewart was taken by Carolina at No. 13.

During his first two years as a pro, Stewart teamed with DeAngelo Williams, a first-round pick the ’06 draft, to give the Panthers a “Smash and Dash” tandem at running back. Last year, Williams (1,117) and Stewart (1,133) became the first teammates to both surpass 1,100 rushing yards in the same season.

But after Williams was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 17 with a foot sprain, Stewart has been the Panthers’ primary runner. In his last three starts, he’s rushed for 92, 133 and 137 yards, respectively.

Stewart will be hard-pressed to rush for 100 again tonight. The Steelers, who rank first in the NFL in rushing defense, have only allowed one running back to surpass 100 yards in their last 48 games.

CLAUSEN vs. STEELERS’ PASS DEFENSE

Jimmy Clausen, the former Notre Dame star, is having a brutal rookie season. He’s playing for a very bad team with a lame-duck coach. A starter in eight games, he ranks last in the NFL with a 59.1 passer rating. He’s only thrown two touchdown passes but seven interceptions. Of the 43 times Carolina quarterbacks have been sacked, Clausen has been taken down 26 times.

And tonight he faces the vaunted Steelers’ defense that’s first in the leaue in fewest touchdowns allowed (19), tied for third in sacks (40) and tied for fourth in fewest TD passes allowed (14).

This past Sunday, Clausen was able to experience his first pro win as the Panthers beat the struggling Arizona Cardinals (4-10). But that was at home against a very bad team. Tonight under wintry conditions on the North Shore, Clausen faces a Steelers team still fuming about the way it lost Sunday to the New York Jets. As the Steelers continue their bid to win the AFC North, they want to first stop the run and then make life miserable for Clausen.
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