Panthers Do Little to Slow Steelers’ March Toward a Bye

Pittsburgh (11-4) will wrap up the A.F.C. North title and the bye if it beats Cleveland on Jan. 2. The Browns (5-9) could end the division race even earlier than that if they upset the (10-4) at home on Sunday.

“It’s good to be in the clubhouse before everyone else this weekend with a necessary win,” Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said.

Roethlisberger found on a 43-yard scoring play and Emmanuel Sanders on a 35-yard completion to set up Rashard Mendenhall’s 1-yard touchdown run as the Steelers opened a 20-0 halftime lead.

It did not seem that close and it wasn’t, not with the Steelers controlling the line of scrimmage. The Jimmy Clausen-led Panthers (2-13) couldn’t throw and, for a change, could not run either while being outgained, 408-119.

Carolina took the opening kickoff, drove to the Steelers 32 and chose to punt on fourth-and-6, as a disappointed Clausen (10 of 23, 72 yards) threw up his hands. That was about it for the Panthers, who had zero net yards and no first downs from the end of the first quarter until the final 90 seconds of the third.

ADDAI READY TO RUN running back Joseph Addai expects to return Sunday at Oakland after missing eight games with a nerve injury in his left shoulder, the first positive news on the injury front for Indianapolis in quite a while.

“I feel like I’m heading in the right direction,” Addai said Thursday, one day after participating fully in practice. “I felt good. I didn’t set myself back. Really, I’m just happy to put on a uniform and just get back into it.”

Linebacker Clint Session is also likely to play after missing the past seven games with a broken arm and a dislocated elbow. MCNABB’S AGENT FAULTS The simmering feud between and Coach and his son continued with a blistering statement from McNabb’s agent. The agent, Fletcher Smith, took aim at Shanahan and his son, Kyle, the Redskins’ offensive coordinator, for the way they handled the benching of McNabb.

“I believe there is tension between Donovan and Kyle that’s rooted in the fact that Donovan has suggested modifications to Kyle’s offense based on intricacies Donovan has learned in his career,” Smith wrote.

FAVRE MISSES PRACTICE AGAIN Minnesota quarterback missed his second straight day of practice, and Coach Leslie Frazier said Favre was still showing symptoms from the concussion he sustained Monday against Chicago.

Frazier said Favre demonstrated no improvement during his concussion test Thursday, but Frazier declined to rule out Favre for Sunday night’s game against Philadelphia even though no player this season has played the week after a concussion.

VIKINGS’ WINFIELD FINED Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield has been fined $7,500 for a hit on Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on Monday night. The play happened in the second quarter when Winfield rushed on a blitz. As the 5-foot-9 Winfield went to tackle Cutler, his helmet hit him on the chin.

CHANGING QUARTERBACKS The San Francisco 49ers are going back to Troy Smith as their starting quarterback but leaving open the possibility of switching to Alex Smith at any time. The 49ers have changed quarterbacks after each of their last two defeats in an attempt to salvage a 5-9 season.

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