Steelers Finalize Preseason With 19-3 Win At Panthers
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Friday, August 31, 2007
By Eddie Griffin
Steelers Fever Columnist
Well, that’s that. The Steelers wrapped up their preseason on a nice note, as the backups took care of business in a 19-3 victory at Carolina, filled with bad weather, lots of turnovers, and players trying to prove themselves.
Ben Roethlisberger played only one series and was 2 of 2 for 16 yards. He was sacked during that one possession, so it was a good thing that Charlie Batch came in on the next drive.
Field goals accounted for all of the scoring until late in the 4th quarter. Jon Kasay’s 31-yarder in the second gave Carolina a 3-0 lead, but that was all of the scoring the home team would do. Jeff Reed kicked field goals from 32, 34, 31, and 37 yards to boot the Steelers into a 12-3 fourth-quarter lead. With the game already put away, cornerback Tyrone Carter put on the finishing touches with a 32-yard interception return with a little over a minute left.
Pittsburgh generated only 141 yards of total offense, compared to Carolina’s 289, but was aided by six turnovers, a couple of which helped set up Reed field goals.
No one got hurt. When it’s the last preseason game, that’s one thing that you don’t want or need to happen.
The defense had an excellent game, even though the reserves played most of the snaps. No matter who you have in the game, if you can force six turnovers, then you’ve had a pretty good night.
The rookie linebackers both had solid games. Lawrence Timmons has come a long way in a short time after returning from his groin injury, and had three tackles and a forced fumble. LaMarr Woodley had five tackles (four solo, one assist).
William Gay rounded out a great preseason, as he recovered one of the four lost fumbles by Carolina. The rookie corner is definitely one to watch throughout the season, when you can never have enough quality depth.
Even though the offensive numbers weren’t particularly great, the Steelers dominated in time of possession, holding the ball nine minutes more than the Panthers.
Well, Brian St. Pierre probably didn’t help himself too much in his hopes of staying on the roster. St. Pierre struggled for spells during the preseason, and was 3 of 10 for 16 yards on Thursday night, before leaving the game with a toe injury.
Punching the ball into the end zone was an issue throughout the preseason, and it was again against Carolina. The Steelers scored each time they got into the red zone, but you’d have liked six points on a couple of those possessions, and not just three.
Now that the preseason is over, the focus shifts to this weekend, when the roster is trimmed down from 75 to 53. There are some tough decisions for Mike Tomlin and the staff to make, but you can trust that he’ll evaluate everyone as thoroughly and fairly as possible and make the right decisions based on merit and the team’s needs.
After that, it’s time to look forward to the regular season opener at Cleveland, which is just a little over a week away.
It’s been a successful preseason, as the Steelers won four of five games. But, most importantly, a lot of improvements were made, and you’ve got to feel good about a lot of things going into the season.
There are still some question marks, like how dependable the offensive line is, and what we can expect with the receivers beyond Ward and Holmes, but the team that will take the field in Cleveland is going to be a pretty good one, and one that should be in the playoff hunt come the end of the season.
Maybe I’ll end up being wrong, but there’s no reason to think that Pittsburgh won’t at least challenge for a playoff spot, new coach and all.
The preseason can be a deceiving thing, but on the surface, there are a lot of positive things to take from the last several weeks.
We’ll find out one way or another soon enough, when months of anticipation finally are rewarded.