PANTHERS 25, STEELERS 10Steelers' record:0-4 **One year ago: 3-1
Preseason series record: Steelers lead, 10-5
STORYLINEEven though a fourth preseason game might hold little interest for the viewing public, it is significant for a portion of the 75-man roster. Stefan Logan made the Steelers by returning a kickoff for a touchdown in a preseason finale, and Patrick Bailey made the team in a preseason finale with his kick coverage. There is still a chance for a number of guys, and Coach Mike Tomlin said he will approach this with an open mind. "I never look at it from a (position) numbers standpoint," said Tomlin. "I just look at who are the deserving players, and then look at the numbers from a secondary standpoint. I think if you do it that way, you'll never turn away an NFL football player and you won't be a slave to numbers."
TURNING POINTThe Steelers were trailing just 17-10 late in the third quarter when Greg Warren's recovery of a fumbled punt gave the offense the ball at the Carolina 17-yard line. On a third-and-2 from the 9-yard line, Landry Jones was intercepted and the 70-yard return by Josh Norman set up a Panthers field goal that upped the deficit to 20-10 at the end of the third quarter.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT
This is the first time the Steelers have been 0-4 in the preseason since 2006, the season after they won Super Bowl XL. That team didn't make the playoffs. In each of Mike Tomlin's previous five seasons, the Steelers were 3-1 in the preseason; during his rookie season of 2007 they were 4-1.
WHAT WENT RIGHTLandry Jones got the start at quarterback, and he needed 3:47 to answer the Panthers' opening-drive touchdown with one of his own. Jones capped off the 80-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to David Paulson, with the key play being a 17-yard run by LaRod Stephens-Howling on a third-and-14 from the Carolina 45-yard line. That run was the difference between a punt and the touchdown the Steelers ultimately scored.
It might have been an incomplete pass on third down, but it still represented a good play by Jones. The rookie quarterback sidestepped the rush and was flushed out of the pocket to his right. With nobody open and the rush closing in, Jones threw the ball into the ground at Stephens-Howling's feet.
The Steelers reserves put together a goal-line stand early in the second quarter. On second-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Panthers RB Armond Smith was stopped for no gain, and after the play was challenged from the Carolina sideline the ruling was upheld. Then on third-and-goal, Smith again was stoned at the line of scrimmage, and the Panthers settled for a field goal.
A false start penalty on the center and an illegal block in the back that helped sabotage a red zone possession late in the first half normally couldn't be called a positive, but two penalties on the Steelers in a whole half of preseason football represented an improvement.
Through the first three games of this preseason, the Steelers defense had done a nice job in quick change situations, and it did it again late in the third quarter vs. the Panthers. After Josh Norman's 70-yard interception return to the Pittsburgh 22-yard line, the defense allowed minus-1 yards on three plays to force a field goal that made it 20-10. Chris Carter recorded his second sack of the game on third down.
Brian Moorman didn't seem to be helping himself much with his punting, but on one of his attempts – a 35-yarder – in the third quarter the ball bounced off a Panthers player and was recovered by Greg Warren at the Carolina 17-yard line.
WHAT WENT WRONG
With no Brett Keisel or Ike Taylor or Troy Polamalu or Ryan Clark or Larry Foote or Lawrence Timmons or LaMarr Woodley playing for the Steelers, the Panthers took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards in six plays – all completed passes by Derek Anderson – to take a 7-0 lead three minutes into the game.
For Brian Moorman, what went wrong were his first two punts. The first traveled only 39 yards, and the Panthers offense set up at the Carolina 27-yard line. His second was a much prettier looking kick that traveled 55 yards, but it went into the end zone on the fly for a touchback.
One of the commandments of a Dick LeBeau coordinated defense is: don't get beat deep. Ted Ginn Jr. got behind safety DaMon Cromartie-Smith and caught a pass from Derek Anderson that he turned into an 87-yard touchdown to give the Panthers a 17-7 lead.
The wheels came off the Landry Jones bandwagon quickly and in rather dramatic fashion on back-to-back series late in the third period. After Greg Warren's fumble recovery, a 4-yard pass to Felix Jones followed by a 4-yard run by Jones set up a third-and-2 from the 9-yard line. Landry Jones underthrew Derek Moye in the right flat and the ball was intercepted by Josh Norman and returned 70 yards to the Pittsburgh 22-yard line. On the next series, Jones overthrew everyone and the pass was intercepted by safety Colin Jones.