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Sep 21, 2014 11:04 PM

Steelers lead Panthers 23-6 after 3rd quarter

The Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Antonio Brown hauled in two touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers led the Carolina Panthers 23-6 after the third quarter Sunday night.

Brown's first scoring catch in the back corner of the end zone snapped the Steelers' touchdown drought that stood at eight quarters two full games since the first half of the season opener. He struck again on the next drive, getting free while running across the field at the goal line for another 7-yard score that put Pittsburgh in complete control.

Shaun Suisham added three field goals in the opening half, the last coming as time expired to give Pittsburgh a 9-3 lead at the break. Le'Veon Bell ran for 138 yards through the first three quarters, including an 81-yard burst through a huge hole up the middle that set up Brown's second scoring touchdown.

Graham Gano managed the only points for Carolina, kicking a 40-yard field goal to cap the team's first drive of the night then adding another 40-yarder midway through the third.

Otherwise, it was a problem-filled night for Carolina, which struggled to sustain drives and protect Cam Newton in the pocket.

The Panthers got the ball first after the break, but Jarvis Jones knocked the ball loose from Newton as he looked to throw to set up the Steelers with a short field.

Five plays later, Roethlisberger scrambled to his right and lofted a soft pass for Brown. Brown slipped behind Antoine Cason to haul in the catch, then drug both feet just inside the back pylon for a 16-3 lead.

The Panthers did their part on that drive, too. Suisham was lining up his fourth field goal when Wes Horton was flagged for encroachment to give the Steelers a first down, leading directly to Brown's touchdown.

Pittsburgh nearly got a first-half touchdown catch from Markus Wheaton, but an official ruled Wheaton had stepped on the sideline before making the short catch to set up Suisham's second field goal.

Roethlisberger warmed up from a slow start, throwing for 153 yards on 19-for-27 passing through the third.

Newton threw for 192 yards on 20-for-29 passing, but the Panthers were unable to move the ball on the ground against one of the league's worst run defenses. Carolina managed just 10 yards rushing in the opening half, with starter Jonathan Stewart managing 31 yards before suffering a right knee contusion in the third.

The teams were relatively even in the opening period, each managing one solid drive that pushed near the 20 before settling for field goals.

The Panthers entered the game aiming for their first 3-0 start since 2003, the season they made it to the Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh hadn't reached the end zone since Bell's 38-yard scoring run in the second quarter of the season-opening win over Cleveland. The Steelers managed two field goals the rest of that game, then just two field goals with three turnovers in last week's 26-6 loss at Baltimore.

The Panthers were down two offensive starters. Running back DeAngelo Williams and receiver Jerricho Cotchery were both inactive due to hamstring injuries.

Stewart made his second straight start for Williams, while undrafted rookie Philly Brown started for Cotchery and had his first two NFL catches on Carolina's first drive.

Carolina was without its Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy, who was removed from the active roster earlier this week after being placed on the exempt-commissioner's permission list.

Hardy was convicted July 15 of assault on a female and communicating threats after the victim said the 6-foot-4, 275-pound player threw her in the bathtub and onto a sofa covered with guns before threatening to kill her. Hardy is appealing the ruling and a jury trial is set for Nov. 17.


Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


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