Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger scrambles out of the pocket in the Steelers 52-21 NFL rout of the Carolina Panthers

Los Angeles (AFP) - Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for five touchdowns on Thursday as the Steelers dismantled the Carolina Panthers 52-21 for a fifth straight NFL victory.

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% 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.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was sacked five times, twice by Cam Heyward.

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.