4 critical observations from Panthers defeat vs. Steelers in Week 15

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Terrace Marshall Jr.
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Terrace Marshall Jr. /
2 of 5
Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu /

Carolina Panthers lost in the trenches

Going up against a Mike Tomlin-coached team this was always going to be a battle in the trenches. Unfortunately for the Carolina Panthers, they were massacred on both sides of the ball.

The tone was set on the opening drive as Carolina failed to establish their running game before the Pittsburgh Steelers – mainly Najee Harris – bullied the Panthers’ defense on his way to the end zone.

What followed for the remainder of the game was Carolina getting a lesson in trench warfare from their AFC North opponents. They ended the day with just 21 rushing yards – the fourth-lowest total in team history and the lowest in 10 years.

It wasn’t just on running-downs where Carolina struggled. The offensive line has its worst outing arguably since Week 1 against a menacing Steelers front, giving up four sacks with Alex Highsmith having a big day.

The Wilmington, North Carolina native who was a Charlotte 49er in college and grew up a Panthers’ fan regularly gave rookie tackle Ikem Ekwonu trouble. While Sam Darnold was solid, the lack of production elsewhere hampered the team’s ability to build any offensive consistency.