Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had been looking ahead to the regular season opener on Sept. 7 against Cleveland in advance of the Steelers' preseason finale against Carolina.
Roethlisberger, thus, was understandably excited about the Steelers finally being able to put the preseason behind them following Thursday night's 10-0 loss.
"It's about time," Roethlisberger said. "Coach (Dick) LeBeau and I always hold hands when we pray. We got done and said we're glad it's finally over."
Roethlisberger didn't want to read too much into the Steelers' 1-3 preseason. He left Heinz Field much more focused on his anticipation of the opener against the Browns, on the potential he sees in the Steelers and on the season ahead.
"The excitement from some veteran guys who are excited to play to a lot of young guys and kind of the question, the unknown, what's going to happen with certain guys, I'm just excited about how we're all going to mesh together," Roethlisberger said. "I'm excited and happy with where our team is.
"It's a clean slate, ready to rock and roll now. We're 0-0, and it's (time for) real football now."
LAST MEN STANDING: Coach Mike Tomlin had said starters in need of work were going to get it in the Carolina game, even though starters traditionally play sparingly or not at all in a preseason finale. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was the last defensive starter in the game.
"I did well, made a couple plays," he said.
Jones recovered a fumble on his final snap, a play that ended a Carolina possession that had commenced with 12:16 remaining in the second quarter.
Jones was pulled down by his hair on a 21-yard return that wound up being overturned by a replay review (Jones was ultimately ruled to have been downed by contact prior to the return; Carolina was still assessed a personal foul for a horse-collar tackle).
"That was (Carolina offensive lineman) Fernando (Velasco)," Jones said. "You know we had Fernando here last year, and he's a Georgia Bulldog (like me). He did apologize to me. It kind of hurt, though. I forgot they can pull your hair."
That said Jones isn't cutting his hair.
"No, no, no, no, no, that'll never happen," Jones insisted.
Second-year wide receiver Markus Wheaton played the entire first half, the most work extracted from any Steelers starter against Carolina.
"I needed it," Wheaton said. "I still have a long way to go. I feel like I still have a lot to learn, still have a lot of developing to do. Hopefully, throughout these next couple weeks I can keep on developing, keep on growing. I'm excited about that first one next week, anxious, excited, nervous, all that. I can't wait to get going."
WELCOME BACK BEARD: Defensive end Brett Keisel saw his first and last preseason action. Keisel was in uniform but didn't play in the team's third last week's game in Philadelphia after re-signing with the Steelers.
He gave himself a passing grade.
"Probably a B-minus," Keisel assessed. "It's good to be above average, I guess. I have work to do but I'm glad Coach (Tomlin) gave me the opportunity to go out and play a little bit and get my feet wet, I had fun. It was good to be back out there."
With Cam Heyward among those not playing, Keisel was introduced to the crowd with the defensive starters and received perhaps the loudest ovation of the night.
"It was great," he said. "I love playing this game. I love this team. I love everything that comes with being a Steeler. There were a lot of questions if I would have the opportunity to do that again, to run out of that tunnel again. It really meant a lot to me to be able to do that again. Hopefully, that wasn't the last time."
No. 1 FOR No. 1: First-round pick Ryan Shazier pronounced himself ready for his first NFL regular season game.
"I'm very ready," Shazier said. "I was talking to some of the guys about it on the sideline during the (Carolina) game about how ready I am for it. Me and L.T. (inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons) and Jarvis were talking about watching film and everything already. We just can't wait to get it started.
"This is my dream all my life. To finally have it actually happen next week, the day after my birthday, is really going to mean a lot."
Shazier will turn 22 on Sept. 6.
IT'S A SNAP: Long-snapper Greg Warren said he's recovered from knee surgery and will play against Cleveland.
"I'm full go," Warren told Adam Crowley of Steelers Nation Radio. "I practiced (Wednesday), everything felt great. They're giving me the rest of the weekend off just to kind of let things finish calming down. But I fully anticipate going strong Monday morning."
STAT CHATTER: Markus Wheaton gained 15 yards on a wide receiver sweep on the Steelers' first offensive snap, the Steelers' longest rush of the preseason to that point. The previous high had been a 10-yard run by Wheaton on Aug. 9 against the New York Football Giants. Josh Harris' 31-yarder in the second half became the team's longest run of the preseason.