The biggest news of the third quarter came when Steelers rookie third round pick Sean Spence suffered what appears to be a serious leg injury (hyper-extended knee). With his injury, the team now has four linebackers battling significant injuries.
The Steelers, behind quarterback Jerrod Johnson, drove the field 89-yards to regain the lead on a six-yard touchdown pass between Johnson and tight end Weslye Saunders. On the drive, Johnson was huge on third down completing 3-of-3 passes for 66 yards and one touchdown.
The Panthers hit a home run, when Clausen hooked up with Lamont Bryant for a 79-yard touchdown pass to cap a lightning fast 90-yard drive. After the touchdown, Cortez Allen broke up the two-point conversion keeping the Steelers lead at 17-16. The Panthers had one last shot, but missed a 50-yard field goal with less than a minute remaining, keeping the score at 17-16.
Yes, many of the stars were out, but this was an entertaining first half. The Steelers jumped out to the early lead on a five-play 80-yard drive capped by a 37-yard touchdown pass from Charlie Batch to Emmanuel Sanders. On the drive, Batch went 2-for-2 and looked in total control of the offense.
Unfortunately, the penalty bug came out, nullifying not one, but two Chris Rainey punt returns for touchdowns (78 and 90 yards) before the Steelers got the ball rolling again. Led by Batch and hard running by Jonathan Dwyer, the Steelers moved the ball down the field for a Shaun Suisham 49-yard field goal to boost the lead to 10-0.
The Panthers came back with a solid drive of their own, moving 73 yards in 17 plays before settling for a 31-yard field goal. The drive was also time-consuming, taking 7:23 off the clock.
Offensively Dwyer looks like a weapon in the making, running tonight with a sound mixture of speed and power. In all, he carried the ball 11 times for 60 yards (5.45 YPC) with a long of 18-yards. He was joined by Baron Batch as a solid running tandem, before Batch left with a groin injury late in the third quarter. The battle for the fifth receiver spot seemed stagnant, and could come down to a coin flip between David Gilreath and Derrick Williams.
One defensive player that looked good was undrafted rookie free agent linebacker Adrian Robinson, who showed versatility against the run and in coverage. Robinson has had a solid camp and may work his way onto the roster with a good special teams performance.
Robert Golden looked solid at safety before leaving the game with a hamstring injury. With his performance, he should have solidified a spot on the opening day roster (if the injury is not severe). Cornerback Curtis Brown also left the game with a left knee injury and will not return. At this point, there is no update on the severity of the injury.
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