Carolina won their first meeting with Pittsburgh in 1996 in only their sophomore season. They were already a 12-4 team who would reach the NFC Championship. But this would be the only time the Panthers get the best of Pittsburgh. Beginning their next meeting in 1999, Pittsburgh would win throughout and lead the series 5-1 overall.
Pittsburgh completely dominates the series. All five of their wins have been by double-digits including a 34-point blowout win in 2006. This comes with an asterisk as all five of these Panthers squads were not winning teams with the 1999 and 2006 8-8 teams being the "best" Carolina team along this timeline.
The two are set to meet again this season and this may be the best matchup since their first meeting of the series. Carolina is coming from an 11-5 season and despite losing several key players will still be a contender while Pittsburgh remains a powerhouse team in the AFC.
The Panthers finally have the edge. Offensively, Pittsburgh is more prolific but the Panthers defence should be the difference-maker even if their secondary is lacking. After 20 years, Carolina is set to finally snap their losing streak.
Carolina Panthers Recent History
Carolina has a case as the NFL's most underrated franchise. They won 12 games and reached the NFC Championship in just their second season. Seven years later, they would reach the Super Bowl becoming the second-fastest expansion team in the modern era to reach the prestigious game.
The Panthers would struggle with consistency throughout including after the 2011 season where they drafted Cam Newton, a franchise-changing quarterback. They would also build one of the NFC's best defences and hire Ron Rivera, a defensive guru.
They would become just the seventh team to win 15 or more games in a season in 2015 and make their second trip to the Super Bowl although they would regress greatly in 2016. With primarily the same core, Carolina will be a major player for years to come and back-to-back winning seasons should finally come.
Pittsburgh Steelers Recent History
Pittsburgh didn't become a franchise worth remembering until the '70s. This was the dawn of the infamous "Steel Curtain", one of the all-time greatest defensive lines led by Hall of Famer "Mean" Joe Greene and supported by other legends like linebacker Jack Lambert and cornerback Mel Blount.
Terry Bradshaw would lead the offence as this iconic Steelers team would capture four Super Bowls in six seasons and would become the blueprint for future Steelers teams. Through the years, Pittsburgh would remain a contender and would make a few more Super Bowl runs winning two in 2005 and 2008.
Since the start of the 2010's, Pittsburgh has shifted its philosophy a bit. While still being a strong defensive team, the Steelers have become a more prolific offence. They have yet to return to the Super Bowl but are always in the mix.
Carolina Panthers Outlook
The Panthers have the best linebackers in the NFL. Former DPOY Luke Kuechly is flanked by Davis and Shaq Thompson although Davis will be out until week five thanks to a doping violation. The defensive line is also elite with Dontari Poe and Kawann Short forming one of the best defensive tackle pairs while all-time great Julius Peppers (DE) continues to produce.
As the defence holds, the offence continues to improve thanks to Carolina finally ditching Mike Shula in favour of Norv Turner. This could be a huge boost to a unit that has dynamic talents like Newton, running back Christian McCaffrey, and rookie wideout D.J. Moore.
But Carolina still has many holes to fill. Their mediocre offensive line got even worse thanks to injuries and offseason losses. The secondary also continues to be a liability. This team can return to the Super Bowl as early as 2018 but they will have to find ways around their weaknesses if they are to get over the hump.
Pittsburgh Steelers Outlook
Pittsburgh parted ways with a few key players like wide receiver Martavis Bryant and safety William Gay but they also added the likes of Jon Bostic (LB) and Morgan Burnett (S). The Steelers were aggressive during the draft scouring it for linebackers as it was their biggest need.
They took safety Terrell Edmunds with their first-round pick and will look to convert him to linebacker then did the same with Marcus Allen in the fifth round. It's hard to think of a Steelers team that is weak at the position but if their picks pan out, they could once again have an elite defence within two or three seasons.
On offence, Pittsburgh added James Washington to replace Bryant and he should fit in nicely. The Steelers aren't exactly the team they once were and have a tough schedule in 2018. The goods news is, their division is weak and they still have an elite offence so a playoffs run is highly likely.
It's unlikely any of the first-teamers play for much longer than a half, if they even play at all. The Panthers should still be in the middle of adjusting to their new offensive coordinator and this should be good for Pittsburgh who is also still adapting to life without Shazier.
Both teams are similar in that they are top-heavy with their starters but have depth issues. The Panthers will struggle without decent offensive linesmen and the lack of a secondary makes them easy pickings even for a backup like Landry Jones. Pittsburgh's lack of linebackers is also an issue.
But it comes down to Jones and the Steelers' offence getting the better of Carolina. They have a bit more tools to work with starting with have a better offensive line and more continuity with less roster turnover. Although since both teams are still adjusting to new coaches, the game could get sloppy and low-scoring.