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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sat out practice on Tuesday to give his broken left index finger a rest but he is expected to play on Thursday night when Carolina visits Heinz Field.Roethlisberger said the finger was “fine” after he threw the ball 47 times in last Sunday’s victory over Baltimore.He did leave the game briefly in the third quarter after getting the wind knocked out of him Ryan Kalil Color Rush Jersey , but he returned after missing just one snap.The 36-year-old is on pace to top 5,000 yards passing for the first time in his career. He came close in 2014 when he tied Drew Brees for the league lead with 4,952. Roethlisberger said reaching the 5,000-yard plateau “is still a pretty big deal” but he is keeping his focus on the team.The Steelers (5-2-1) have ripped off four straight wins to climb into first in the AFC North. The short week means they won’t have much time to prepare for the surging Panthers (6-2) Luke Kuechly Color Rush Jersey , which might not be a bad thing. Roethlisberger expects to rely a little more heavily on the no-huddle offense, a setup in which he thrives.“We’ve been doing it for a while,” Roethlisberger said. “We know it. We know it pretty well. We did it really well in Baltimore, really well C.J. Anderson Jersey , and just being able to pick up the pace and the tempo.”The Steelers often turn to the no-huddle in an effort to snap them out of a funk early in games, but Roethlisberger isn’t using it as a method of trying to get the ball downfield.While he’s on track to set a career high in yards, his production has dipped a bit during Pittsburgh’s winning streak. He’s gone over 300 yards just once in Pittsburgh’s past five games after going over 330 yards in each of the first three weeks.An improved defense has helped. Roethlisberger lit up scoreboards early because the Steelers were trying to keep up with opponents who had little trouble getting to the end zone.That’s not happening much anymore. Now that Roethlisberger isn’t tasked with trying to play catch up, the Steelers have taken a more balanced approach.Second-year running back James Conner is second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage and Roethlisberger is content to keep throwing the ball underneath to move the chains and keep Pittsburgh’s defense off the field. And just like that Russell Color Rush Shepard Jersey , Pittsburgh’s sluggish 1-2-1 start has become a distant memory.“There was no panic in this room early in the season,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s why we got a good chuckle out of (the media) panicking and the outside world panicking, but for us it was just a matter of playing the next week.”NOTES: Right tackle Marcus Gilbert (knee) did not practice and is unlikely to play, meaning Matt Feiler will make his third straight start. … NT Daniel McCullers (ankle) also did not practice. … WR Antonio Brown (coach’s decision) and WR Ryan Switzer (ankle) were limited. … WR James Washington (knee) was a full participant. That was the game that Panthers fans have been waiting to see. Cam Newton was sharp. Ron Rivera and Norv Turner were aggressive both early and often. The defense generated both pressure and turn overs. These are the Panthers that can make a run at the playoffs. We all knew the team had talent and we all hoped they would be able to put that talent together for a complete performance. That they did so is great Jordan Scarlett Jersey , but not a reason for optimism. It was a confirmation of suspicion. The reason for optimism is that their complete performance led to a 36 point game that saw the Panthers effectively running out the clock for the entirety of the fourth quarter. The question against this team was whether or not they could score enough points in a single game to keep up with the Kansas City’s and New Orleans’ of the NFL. Yesterday they did that against one of the top defenses in the NFL and still had time to tap the brakes.The defense struggled on the first drive before forcing three turnovers and three punts to cap off one of their more complete days of the year. The offense also struggled on the first drive, as well as on their opening two drives of the second half, but otherwise kept the pressure on Baltimore the whole game. They rarely settled for less than a field goal.The closest you can come to saying anybody had a bad day would be Eric Reid’s missed tackle on Alex Collins’ early touchdown run, Dontari Poe’s poorly timed sideline penalty https://www.carolinapanthersfanshop.com/Christian-Miller-Jersey , and Jarius Wright not catching a ball on third down that hit him in the hands. All of these mistakes were easily overcome by their respective units. That is the kind of team that Carolina can be. That is the team they weren’t against Washington.In the waning seconds of the first half, facing fourth and seven and up 21 to seven, Rivera shocked the world by going for it. Not only was the play call not a half-assed draw play to Christian McCaffrey, it was a pass from back-up quarterback Taylor Heinicke. The completion and conversion on that play allowed Graham Gano to kick a 54-yard field goal and gave the team momentum to carry into the second half. This is what I mean when I talk about the kind of team that Carolina can be. Their mistakes weren’t compounded from drive to drive. They scored and then they tried to score again Will Grier Jersey , regardless of how their opponent was doing. Rivera has talked since he got here about becoming the team that “twists the knife” instead of the team that edges out close games. He is finally coaching with that philosophy and you can see the results.I said a few weeks ago that I was done with Rivera. I argued that he was stuck in his old, fuddy-duddy coaching style and had given little evidence that he would change. After eight years, why would he? Yesterday was the game that I never thought I would see from him. The Panthers are prepared to be one of the most dangerous teams in the league, just like I am prepared to eat my words https://www.carolinapanthersfanshop.com/Greg-Little-Jersey , if Rivera keeps this up for the rest of the season.
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