By Teresa Varley
The Steelers closed out the preseason with a 21-10 win over the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. The win gave the Steelers a 3-1 preseason record and was the final opportunity for some young players looking to make the roster.
Several players certainly made their case against the Panthers, including return specialist Stefan Logan who returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown, while rookie running back Isaac Redman got into the end zone on a 10-yard run. Redman finished with 12 carries for 79 yards.
Safety Ryan Mundy had a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown and also recorded a sack. Rookie Keenan Lewis had a strong performance with 10 tackles.
The Steelers starting defense played just one series and didn't allow the Panthers to do much. DeAngelo Williams started off with a nine-yard run, but on third-and-one Keyaron Fox knocked Williams for a two-yard loss, forcing a punt.
On a night of make or break for some players, Logan fielded Jason Baker's punt at the 20-yard line and returned it virtually untouched 80-yards for a touchdown to give the Steelers an early 7-0 lead.
Fox, who started for James Harrison who was just held out of the game, continued to dominate with a nine-yard sack of Jake Delhomme. A false start put the Panthers in a hole facing second-and-24, something that they couldn't dig out from and had to punt again.
The Steelers offense got their first shot with 10:40 to go in the first quarter, but the starters weren't out there for long as they went three-and-out and most were done for the night.
Things started to flow for the Panthers on their next drive when Mike Goodson rattled off a nine-yard run. Back-up quarterback Josh McCown hit Dwayne Jarrett for 11 yards to move the chains again. But an opportunistic Steelers defense would soon pounce. Linebacker Arnold Harrison forced a McCown fumble and came up with the recovery to give the Steelers the ball at the Panthers 34-yard line.
Charlie Batch got the call at quarterback on the next series, completing his first pass to Justin Vincent for nine yards. Redman, going against the Panthers starting defense, shook off tacklers and battled his way to the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 14-0.
Another defensive stop gave the Steelers a look at their third quarterback of the night in rookie Mike Reilly. Reilly started off throwing, completing a short pass to Vincent. Logan got his first chance to show he is more than one-dimensional, lining up at wide receiver and taking the handoff around right end for a 14-yard gain. Vincent added a five-yard gain, but was stopped for no gain on the next play. Reilly was sacked, forcing the Steelers to punt.
The Panthers took over at their own 24-yard line and McCown got the offense in gear, moving the ball 74 yards on 15 plays to the two-yard line. But just as they were ready to punch it in the end zone, the defense came up big once again. Goodson was knocked for a four-yard loss by Steve McLendon and linebacker Donovan Woods recovered at the four-yard line. Woods returned it 27 yards to the 31 yard line before he went down, irritating his hamstring.
Reilly was given a chance to run the two-minute offense, but the Steelers were unable to get it into the end zone, going into the half up 14-0.
The audition for roster spots continued in the second half and Redman kept putting on a show. He took the first play of the second half up the middle for 13 yards. Reilly had a short completion to Tyler Grisham, but was sacked for an eight-yard loss on the ensuing play, ending the drive.
Matt Moore took over at quarterback for the Panthers to start the second half and was able to put together the Panthers first scoring drive of the night, taking the team down the field on 10 plays for 71 yards in 4:20. Jamall Lee took it over the top for a one-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 14-7.
Reilly got into the groove on the next drive, finding Grisham who made a diving 20-yard reception. McDonald continued with his sure hands on a nice catch-and-run for 27 yards. Logan continued to pack some punch on a reverse for 13 yards to the Carolina 25-yard line. Vincent cut back for an eight-yard gain before getting closed in on by a slew of Panthers' defenders. Vincent followed the block of rookie Frank Summers on the next play, moving the chains with a five-yard run to the 12-yard line.
Just as things were clicking, Vincent cut inside and was hit by Kelvin Smith, forcing a fumble. Jeremy Leman recovered the ball for the Panthers at the 12-yard line.
It didn't take long for the Steelers to not just get the ball back, but add to their lead. Mundy intercepted Moore and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 21-7.
The Panthers added a 37-yard John Kasay field goal in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough as the Steelers remained in control with a 21-10 win.
Notes: Defensive lineman Scott Paxson left the game with a concussion. Grisham injured his shoulder in the third quarter and did not return. In addition to James Harrison, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, running back Willie Parker and fullback Carey Davis did not play. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons did not play, remaining in Pittsburgh to have treatment.