If the Steelers wanted to end their preseason on a positive note on the field, then they certainly failed in their sloppy 25-10 loss tonight to Carolina Panthers.
While tonight’s starting quarterback Landry Jones some nice throws, particularly his 13-yard touchdown strike to David Paulson in the first quarter, the rookie was inaccurate and inconsistent all night long. Jones only completed 16 of his 35 passes for 189 yards, and his three interceptions were definitely the ugliest part of his night. The one that proved to be especially costly happened after the Steelers recovered a botched punt return deep in Carolina’s territory in the third quarter when the Steelers were only down 17-10. Jones however served up a interception for Josh Norman, and the cornerback raced 70 yards to put his team near Pittsburgh’s 20 yard line.
Besides Jones’ struggles, Pittsburgh’s backups in their secondary put on quite the pathetic show in the first half.
Curtis Brown struggled mightily on Carolina’s opening march of 6 play-80 yards, but it was Josh Victorian who allowed a 35-yard touchdown pass from Derek Anderson. The secondary was destroyed again in the second quarter when Ted Ginn, Jr. scored an 87-yard touchdown after he beat both Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith and Brown. Brown and Cromartie-Smith looked hapless on the play, and one has to wonder if both players will be looking for work elsewhere after “The Turk” makes his rounds.
Of course, no Steeler game would be complete without some poor special teams play. Am I right? Reggie Dunn’s decision-making and inability to correctly field a punt cost him and his team a safety in the second half, and the move likely cost the rookie a job on the practice squad.
Although the play of Pittsburgh’s backups in the secondary and the special teams decision-making worries me, I refuse to hit the “panic button” over this game like many are sure to during the next week. Though there were few, I will say that there a few positives to take away from tonight’s game.
Derek Moye (two catches for 55 yards) and Paulson (four catches for 41 yards) did solid jobs tonight, and the receiver likely earned himself a spot on Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster. Felix Jones might also have sealed himself up a roster spot with his 56 rushing yards too. On defense, outside linebacker Chris Carter logged two sacks and a forced fumble, while inside linebacker Brian Rolle forced one as well. In addition to those positives, it is also worth noting that the Steelers only committed two penalties for 15 yards tonight. This was of course departure from their normal penalty-laden play during their first three preseason contests.
While I would have liked to see the Steelers win at least once during preseason play, the games are still meaningless from a regular season perspective. Plus, outside of Will Johnson leaving the game, this team made it out of preseason play relatively healthy. Moreover though, I think that we should all keep in mind that the team started their third-string signal-caller this evening too.
My hope is that the Steelers’ coaching staff can rally this team around the fact that they will be underdogs this fall, and also turn the fact that they dropped all four of their preseason game into a learning experience more than anything else. For now though, let’s all take a deep breath, search for preseason positives, and know that this team will always have a chance to win with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger at the helm.
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