The Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers completed their preseason schedule Thursday when they fell to the Panthers 25-10. With many starters on the sideline, it was a chance for many young players to step up and solidify a roster spot.
In the first half, the Panthers took advantage of two big plays on offense to take a 17-10 lead. On the two plays, Curtis Brown was beat for long touchdown passes by Ted Ginn. However, in both instances, Brown appeared to be expecting safety help over-the-top from Damon Cromartie-Smith, and he was nowhere to found on either play. With the final roster decisions looming, plays like these cannot help the cause.
Offensively from the Steelers, quarterback Landry Jones has led the team from the start. Early in the game, he led the Steelers down the field to draw even with a touchdown pass to tight end David Paulson. He also led the offense on a two-minute drill, for a Shaun Suisham field goal.
In the second half, the wheels fell off of Jones, who threw three critical interceptions that led to six points for the Panthers. In fact, offensively the only players that looked impressive in the second stanza were wide receiver Derek Moye, who should have solidified his roster spot and running back Felix Jones. Jones had another solid outing and likely earned a roster spot. Of course, he was helped by the fact that running back Jonathan Dwyer put the ball on the ground again.
Paulson looked good again as a receiver and should be able to develop into a solid Red Zone / Third Down target for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as Heath Miller continues to recover from his knee surgery. With the injury to Johnson, the Steelers may be forced to keep fourth tight end / fullback as Miller does not appear to be ready to return.
One player that was a mixed bag Thursday was wide receiver / kick returner Reggie Dunn. He made some plays on reverses on offense, but made a terrible decision to field a punt inside the five-yard line, which led directly to a safety. For a player that is trying to win a return specialist position, he cannot make that type of play, even if he is pressing to make plays.
One group of players that again showed up was the young back-up linebackers. Brian Rolle, Vince Williams, Alan Baxter and even Chris Carter stepped up and had another tremendous outing. With this solid performance, the Steelers will have some difficult decisions to make at linebacker.
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