The Steelers beat the Carolina Panthers 33-17 in their final 2011 preseason game on the road in Charlotte. Charlie Batch got things started with a 10 play, 80 yard drive that used 5:06 of the clock. Batch was 4 of 5 on the drive that culminated with a 10-yard pass to Mike Wallace that he fumbled into the endzone from the 1-yard and it was recovered by tight end David Johnson for a touchdown. Running back Isaac Redman rushed for 29 yards on the drive.
The Panthers answered with a 9 play, 71 yard drive of their own that was fueled by a 19 yard run by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on a 3rd and 10. Newton connected with tight end Jeremy Shockey on a 10 yard touchdown pass after both Ryan Mundy and Ryan Clark missed tackles on the play.
The Steelers rested several starters on defense as Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, James Harrison, James Farrior, Bryant McFadden and Troy Polamalu all sat out the game. The defense as a whole was up and down on the night with the replacements and yielded over 8 yards per attempt on the night. They also gave up 75 yards rushing on just 16 rushes.
The Steelers added their second touchdown another touchdown on a 50-yard run by Jonathan Dwyer off right guard. The run was aided by a great block by receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who was playing his first game of the preseason. Good to see him back.
The Steelers added 4 field goals and a fourth quarter touchdown to undrafted tight end Wesyle Saunders. Two of the four field goals were over 50 yards as Shaun Suisham connected from 52 yards and Swayze Waters drilled one home from 53 yards. A punter also got in on the action tonight as Jeremy Kapinos had two 63 yard punts.
Here are some observations on the night.
Dwyer really had a great game and his blitz pickup late in the first half showed he is becoming a well rounded running back. He locked up his roster spot tonight.
Jason Worilds really has progressed over the preseason and the light seems to have come on for him after a poor first game against the Redskins. He still has his read and react problems at times, but the progress is finally noticeable.
Saunders is going to be very tough to cut now. He still has some work to do with his blocking but it has progressed greatly over the preseason. The touchdown catch he had showed great body control and great hands.
Cortez Allen finally hit the field and immediately caused an interception. Up until tonight there was no film on him and he will now be risky to try to slide to the practice squad.
Crezdon Butler and Curtis Brown both had good games going until both gave up big plays. Brown rebounded quickly though and shows great promise with his coverage skills. Butler and Brown both contributed on special teams with Butler even getting a chance to return a punt and a kickoff.
Mortty Ivy was everywhere tonight as he had 9 tackles, 1 sack and a pass defensed.
Mario Harvey finally saw the field tonight, but it might be too late for him.
Steve McLendon really seemed to take over late in the game.
Wes Lyons had a great catch tonight and could be a practice squad candidate.
Antonio Brown needs to stop with touchdown penalties. Preseason is over now and he has had his fun. That is the only bad thing I can say about him this whole preseason.
Jamie McCoy had some great blocks when lined up as a fullback.
Doug Legursky deserves the starting right guard spot.
Ramon Foster is on shaky ground.
Trai Essex really battled at center and outside of the holding call, he did a fine job.
Dennis Dixon really got off to a bad start, but did right himself a bit as the game went on. He has accuracy problems that will not go away and there is no way he should be the backup.
Final 53 man roster coming in the morning and it will be tough to nail.