CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – First Pittsburgh’s fans took over Carolina’s stadium. Then the Steelers manhandled the Panthers to virtually end their playoff hopes.

Willie Parker rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown and Ben Roethlisberger threw for a score and ran for another to lead Pittsburgh past Carolina 37-3 on Sunday, delighting the thousands of loyal Steelers fans who filled Bank of America Stadium.

Parker, a Clinton, N.C. native and a little-used running back in college at North Carolina, ran all over his local team, including a 41-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to put it away.

The Steelers (7-7) also blocked a punt and returned another for a touchdown as they won their third straight game and kept their faint playoff hopes alive. The Steelers, who started 2-6, have allowed 13 points in the past three games.

Chris Weinke, starting for the second straight week in place of the injured Jake Delhomme, threw for 170 yards and an interception and was sacked five times for the Panthers (6-8), who lost their fourth straight game and were all but eliminated from the playoff race.

Injuries continued to plague Carolina, as defensive end Mike Rucker left in the second quarter with a knee injury and receiver Drew Carter was knocked out in the third with a bad ankle.

The offensive line, without injured guard Mike Wahle (shoulder), gave Weinke little time to throw as he fell to 1-16 as a starter.

The Panthers were also limited to eight yards rushing in the first half and 43 for the game.

The Steelers practically had the home field advantage, with nearly half the crowd rooting for the Steelers and thousands waving yellow Terrible Towels.

The ratio grew when many Carolina fans, disgusted with the Panthers’ miserable season, left at halftime with Pittsburgh leading 17-3.

AP-ES-12-17-06 1612EST


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