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After further review: Preseason finale

After further review …

GROUND-GAME GRIND: The Steelers rushed 20 times for 84 yards (a 4.2 average) in their preseason-ending, 34-9 loss in Charlotte, totals that included a 12-yard scramble by quarterback Josh Dobbs and an 11-yard sweep by wide receiver Chase Claypool (the Steelers' second- and third-longest rushes of the night).

The totals were 119 attempts, 390 yards and 3.3 per carry in the just-completed preseason.

The latter figure is actually worse than the Steelers' NFL-worst 3.6-yards-per-carry average last season, the one that inspired a mandate from everyone who matters to run the ball more effectively this season.

But there are, of course, extenuating circumstances.

The Steelers started four different offensive line combinations in four preseason games.

Take a look at the best photos from the Week 3 preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium

And 13 different players carried the ball at least once, including wide receiver Diontae Johnson.

Friday night's loss at Carolina reflected the continuity and consistency the Steelers have yet to establish in their ground game, but also what can happen when they get it right.

Rewind to second-and-10 from the Steelers' 25-yard line midway through the second quarter:

Running back Benny Snell Jr. took a shotgun handoff from quarterback Dwayne Haskins, started left, then turned upfield. A lane had been created between guard Kevin Dotson, who was taking care of defensive tackle Derrick Brown, and guard B.J. Finney, who was handling defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, and Snell burst through it. Offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. got to linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. on the second level, Snell ran through an attempted tackle by linebacker Shaq Thompson and finally fell forward while being brought down by free safety Juston Burris.

The play gained 17 yards against varsity defenders.

Had center Kendrick Green not failed in his attempt to get to Thompson, it presumably would have played out in much the same manner as the the Steelers initially drew it up.

It was the Steelers' longest carry of the preseason and an example of what Snell, who was making his preseason debut, can achieve when he isn't being engaged by defenders behind the line of scrimmage, which he was more often than not in the first half against the Panthers.

Bottom line on the ground game: The Steelers are inconsistent but not incapable.

THE DWAYNE TRAIN: Quarterback Dwayne Haskins' stats were a disaster in the first half, with an asterisk.

Two plays wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud could have made but didn't (a drop and an inability to stay in bounds at the end of a perfect throw down the sideline) would have impacted the numbers and perhaps the production (which was non-existent in terms of points scored in the first two quarters).

The performance wasn't dissimilar to the two-minute drill Haskins ran in practice on Aug. 15, three days after he'd lit up Philadelphia.

Playing with and against a significant collection of varsity players for the first time, Haskins completed the assignment with a touchdown pass to Claypool.

But Haskins' second pass in the exercise should have been intercepted by cornerback Cam Sutton.

It's not always all about the quarterback.

"TEAMS" PLAYERS: Wide receiver Cody White, outside linebacker Jamir Jones, outside linebacker Quincy Roche and inside linebacker Buddy Johnson all played on the first-unit punt, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return teams.

White and Jones are first-year pros who have yet to play an NFL snap.

Johnson (fourth round) and Roche (sixth round) are a part of this year's draft class.

Opportunity knocked for all four in Carolina

We'll find out soon enough how well they answered.

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