While the Carolina Panthers are assuredly the worst team in the League, especially with Jimmy Clausen behind the wheel and without a good number of players, including DeAngelo Williams, they have nonetheless proven able to put up a fight, as they did against Arizona last week.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, on the other hand, find themselves in something of the opposite situation.
As a more or less healthy squad, they are considered Super Bowl contenders, playing lights-out defense and posting just enough points on offense to make a blowout of things.
However, when they are missing star safety, Troy Polamalu, who is the key to their defense, they struggle.
Just consider how their game against the New York Jets went last week.
The Jets came up with the victory in the end with a five-point margin (22-17). This was a game played entirely without Troy Polamalu. The Jets posted a total of 276 yards of offense, a good amount of which came through the air.
That aside, though, perhaps the performance that the Steelers put up against the Panthers is a sign of good things to come.
Can the Steelers win in the post season without Troy Polamalu?
It is an intimidating concept for a Steelers fan to consider entering the playoffs without Troy Polamalu, especially considering that they are likely to face some prolific passing attacks in the AFC, from New England to Kansas City (or San Diego) to Indianapolis.
Fear not, though, for it seems as though the Steelers have found a way to play shut-down defense without the man with the big hair.
While it is important to take this kind of assumption with a grain of salt, considering that the Steelers' Thursday night matchup was against the worst offense in the league, consider this:
- While the Panthers may be horrible in most respects, their running game is ironically good, ranking 13th in the league and averaging 113.9 yards per game. The Steelers held them to 74 yards on the ground and kept Jonathan Stewart under four yards per carry.
- The Steelers still managed to force two turnovers, always a sign of good things to come.
The Browns next week will be a bit more of a challenge for the Steelers defense and should give a better picture of what a Polamalu-less defense looks like (should he still be unable to play).
In the end, though, take what you will from the blowout win against Carolina, but it seems to bode well for the Steelers. If they can manage to hold an offense like Carolina's to only a field goal, at the very least it means that the Steelers defense without Troy Polamalu can still keep them in games.