Steelers top Panthers, 19-3

The Steelers defeated the Carolina Panthers 19-3 in their final preseason game, but they won't know the status of quarterback Byron Leftwich until he has an MRI on Friday.

Leftwich suffered a sprained knee in the second quarter after getting hit on a completion to rookie Emmanuel Sanders.

"The big story on the injury front, Byron Leftwich has a knee sprain of some description," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "He's getting an MRI, and we'll have further information in terms of the extent of that injury. That's unfortunate, but it's football. We understand that, and based on the information we receive we'll respond accordingly in the best interest of our football team."

Leftwich left the game and Dennis Dixon finished out the drive, before he was replaced by Charlie Batch.

"I didn't know exactly the extent of what Byron's injury was," said Tomlin of why Dixon saw limited action. "I am just interested in keeping them all clean from that juncture on."

Ben Roethlisberger started at quarterback, completing four of six passes for 39 yards, playing for most of the first quarter. Leftwich came in late in the first quarter, completing two of four passes for 43 yards before leaving the game with a knee injury. Dixon completed his only pass attempt for a 23-yard touchdown. Batch completed three of four passes for 10 yards.  

Roethlisberger came out working in the no-huddle offense to start things. He was forced to scramble up the middle for one-yard to start the drive and Rashard Mendenhall went off left guard for six yards. On third and three Roethlisberger was able to pull in Maurkice Pouncey's high shotgun snap, but couldn't recover and was sacked for a 10-yard loss.

The Panthers got off to a good start on offense when Mike Goodson rattled off a 16-yard run and added a nine-yard reception from Hunter Cantwell. Cantwell then went to Dante Rosario for 15 yards, before the defense shut them down. Goodson was knocked for a one-yard loss and Armanti Edwards was hit for a three-yard loss. John Kasay's 51-yard field goal attempt came up short when it hit off the crossbar.

Mendenhall was hit for a two-yard loss to open the Steelers next drive and they continued to move backwards when Pouncey was called for a false start. On third-and-17 Roethlisberger hit Arnaz Battle for 16-yards, with his knee ruled down before getting the first down. The Steelers went for it on fourth-and-one and Mendenhall delivered with a nine-yard run up the middle. Roethlisberger connected with Heath Miller for 13 yards and Mendenhall continued to move the ball with carries of four and five yards. Mewelde Moore moved the chains going off left guard for four yards. A holding call negated an 11-yard run by Moore and an incomplete pass gave the Steelers second-and-20 from the Panthers 25-yard line. Roethlisberger hit Moore for seven yards and Battle for three, but they weren't able to convert the first down. Jeff Reed got them on the board with a 33-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

The defense stopped Carolina on their next drive, forcing a quick three-and-out.

Leftwich entered the game with 53 seconds to play in the first quarter completing a 25-yard pass to rookie Emmanuel Sanders. Moore added a four-yard carry, but the offense wasn't able to go any further.

Dan Sepulveda buried the Panthers deep in their own end with a 45-yard punt to the three-yard line. Josh Vaughn was stopped after just a two-yard gain and Dantrell Savage was held to three yards. On third-and-five Cantwell hit Kenny Moore for six yards to keep the drive alive, but not for long. Stevenson Sylvester broke up a pass intended for Savage and Nick Eason sacked Cantwell for a nine-yard loss.

Leftwich hit Sanders for an 18-yard gain to start the ensuing drive, but took a hit after throwing the pass and was forced to leave the game. Dixon came in at quarterback, relying on the ground game for two plays before hitting Sanders in the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown and a 10-0 lead.

The defense came up with some key plays with Keenan Lewis breaking up a Cantwell pass and Sylvester getting to Cantwell for a 13-yard sack.

The Steelers went to their fourth quarterback of the game when Charlie Batch came in with 5:19 in the half, but stuck to the ground game on the drive. Isaac Redman rattling off runs of 18, 7 and 10 yards, setting Reed up for a 43-yard field goal, sending the Steelers into the locker room at halftime up 13-0.

Neither offense moved the ball on their first drives of the second half before Antonio Brown gave the Steelers a spark with a 23-yard punt return. A 25-yard pass interference penalty gave the Steelers the ball at the 20-yard line. Jonathan Dwyer took it off right tackle for seven yards, but Brown wasn't able to go anywhere on a completion from Batch.  A combination of offensive and defensive holding calls gave the Steelers a first-and-20 from the 22-yard line. Justin Vincent was held for no gain, and Batch hit Brown for eight yards and Frank Summers for two. Reed was called upon for his third field goal of the night, extending the lead to 16-0.

The Steelers lost their attempt at a shutout when Kasay hit a 51-yard field goal at the start of the fourth quarter. Reed added a field goal late to give the Steelers the 19-3 win, finishing the preseason with a 3-1 record.

"It's good to bring the preseason to a close on a positive in terms of how we finished the football game," said Tomlin. "I appreciate the efforts of all the men. This process, it is the preseason and training camp, of course is a tough one. We got some tough decisions, but that's also a part of the process. I like the way the men represented themselves with their efforts. It's definitely noteworthy."

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