The Steelers finished out the preseason with a 3-1 record, beating the Carolina Panthers, 39-24, at Heinz Field.
With the vast majority of the starters on the sideline for the night, it was an opportunity for young players battling for a roster spot to put something on tape.
The team will have to cut the roster from 90 to 53 players by Saturday at 4 p.m., and Coach Mike Tomlin said the performance tonight will make some decisions difficult.
“I’m really pleased with the effort tonight. It’s been a long, very competitive process dating back to the spring,” said Tomlin. “We talked all week openly about leaning in at the tape, putting an exclamation point on your work individually and collectively, not waning. I thought largely man to man the guys did that and did it in a big way. The moment wasn’t too big for them. That was encouraging. They did their part in making these next moves difficult for us. That is what you want. You want a competitive environment, you want difficult decisions. I thought the guys did a good job in all areas.”
Strong showing: Joshua Dobbs got his first start of the preseason, and he certainly didn’t disappoint.
Dobbs played the majority of the first half, completing eight of 12 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown and a quarterback rating of 137.5. Dobbs also had three rushes for 18 yards and a touchdown.
Dobbs opened the game taking the Steelers on a 10-play, 79-yard touchdown drive where he converted multiple times on third down, including taking it himself with a 10-yard run. He hit Justin Hunter for an 18-yard pass on the drive, and Bucky Hodges for a 36-yard completion. Dobbs capped the drive with a three-yard run where he leaped over the goal line.
He continued his strong play on the next drive, leading the offense on a three-play, 86-yard touchdown drive. Dobbs connected with Hunter for a 47-yard gain and hit Tevin Jones on a 27-yard scoring strike for a 14-0 lead.
Dobbs also led the team on a field goal drive, before being taken out near the end of the second quarter.
Getting it done: Mason Rudolph took over at the end of the second quarter, giving him an opportunity to run the two-minute offense after the Steelers got the ball back courtesy of a turnover.
Rudolph made it count, connecting with Tevin Jones for his second score of the night, a beautiful 24-yard pass that was right on the money. Rudolph converted the two-point conversion when he ran it in himself.
He didn’t stop there. In the third quarter Rudolph led the team on a seven-play, 84-yard drive to extend the lead to 32-10. Quadree Henderson went airborne for a one-handed catch and seven-yard touchdown. A key play on the drive was a 39-yard reception by Jones, who tacked on extra yardage thanks to impressive blocking by Bucky Hodges.
Rudolph finished the night completing five of nine passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 135.2.
“You know, much like I talked about the rest of the guys, I thought those guys really did a nice job leaning in,” said Tomlin of Dobbs and Rudolph. “We’ve got four above the line quarterback. None of them beat themselves. None of them waned in terms of their enthusiasm or efforts and that’s good for them and good for us. I really like how those guys played and the spirit in which they compete.”
GAME PHOTOS: Preseason Week 4 vs. Carolina Panthers
Game action photos from the Steelers' fourth preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field.
Turnover time: During his weekly press conference before the game Tomlin talked about players using this game to make an impact.
“I want them to know that it’s still very much in their control,” said Tomlin. “I want them to be singularly focused on this performance. I am excited about watching these guys lean in at the tape and really put an exclamation point on what’s been good work.”
Guys listened, that is for sure.
Ola Adeniyi had a strip sack that Keion Adams recovered.
Later in the game Matthew Thomas had a sack, forced fumble, and recovered the fumble and returned it 75 yards to the one-yard line.
“I think he’s been continually on the rise in terms of his performance,” said Tomlin of Thomas. “He’s got some physical talent. He’s gained more detail throughout. He put a nice exclamation point on his efforts with a ridiculous splash play there in the second half of the football game.”
Injury Update: From Tomlin: (Keith) Kelsey with the pec, (Damoun) Patterson with the hammy, Ola (Olasunkanmi Adeniyi) with the hammy, Malik Golden had a significant knee injury, and some other bumps and bruises associated with play.”
A detailed look at how they scored.
First Quarter: Steelers 7, Panthers 0
Scoring Play: Josh Dobbs three-yard touchdown run.
Scoring Summary: 10-79-5:04
First Quarter: Steelers 14, Panthers 0
Scoring Play: Josh Dobbs 27-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Jones
Scoring Summary: 3-86-1:36
Second Quarter: Steelers 14, Panthers 7
Scoring Play: Taylor Heinicki six-yard touchdown pass to Mose Frazier.
Scoring Summary: 12-81-6:11
Second Quarter: Steelers 17, Panthers 7
Scoring Play: Chris Boswell 21-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 8-51-4:52
Second Quarter: Steelers 25, Panthers 7
Scoring Play: Mason Rudolph 24-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Jones. Rudolph with the run for 2-point conversion.
Scoring Summary: 4-29-0:55
Third Quarter: Steelers 25, Panthers 10
Scoring Play: Graham Gano 54-yard field goal.
Scoring Summary: 11-54-5:12
Third Quarter: Steelers 32, Panthers 10
Scoring Play: Mason Rudolph seven-yard pass to Quadree Henderson
Scoring Summary: 7-84-2:48
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 39, Panthers 10
Scoring Play: Jarvion Franklin one-yard run.
Scoring Summary: 2-1-0:39
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 39, Panthers 17
Scoring Play: Reggie Bonnafon two-yard touchdown run.
Scoring Summary: 9-80-4:01
Fourth Quarter: Steelers 39, Panthers 24
Scoring Play: Kyle Allen 18-yard touchdown pass to Bug Howard (who recovers his own fumble for the score).
Scoring Summary: 8-71-3:37