Roethlisberger powers Steelers

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BEN Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers drops back to pass during the first quarter in the game against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. AFP

LOS ANGELES — Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdowns (TD) as the Steelers dismantled the Carolina Panthers, 52-21, for fifth straight National Football League victory Thursday.

Seven different Steelers players scored touchdowns, and Roethlisberger was flawless, setting the tone with a 75-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster on Pittsburgh’s first play from scrimmage.

“That’s a big win for us,” Smith-Schuster said after the Steelers improved to 6-2-1, strengthening their grip on the AFC North division despite the continuing absence of contract holdout Le’Veon Bell.

Roethlisberger posted a Steelers record 88 percent completion percentage, connecting on 22 of 25 passes for 328 yards, and watched most of the fourth quarter from the sidelines.

“We just found ways to capitalize in ways we needed to in order to get a win,” said the veteran quarterback, who also connected with Antonio Brown, Vance McDonald, Jesse James and rookie Jaylen Samuels with scoring passes.

Linebacker Vince Williams returned an interception for a touchdown and James Conner ran for a TD before leaving the game in the second half to be evaluated for a concussion.

The Panthers saw a three-game winning streak halted as they fell to 6-3 for the season. They have never won in Pittsburgh in four attempts.

Steelers’ defender T.J. Watt forced the pick-six by Williams when he pressured Newton into a poor throw from his end zone.

“They did some good things against us and we made too many mistakes early on,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

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