Independent TribuneCarolina Panthers, topsportsCIT Starters see little time in Steelers’ 19-3 win over Panthers

Starters see little time in Steelers’ 19-3 win over Panthers

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – With Steve Smith spending the game filling cups with ice and water for his Carolina teammates and many of Pittsburgh’s top players either sitting out or playing little, it was hard to tell if either team is ready to turn things around after disappointing 8-8 seasons.

By MIKE CRANSTON
AP Sports Writer

Carolina Panthers’ Dwayne Jarrett (80) catches a pass as Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ricardo Colclough (21) defends in the first quarter of a preseason NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Aug. 30, 2007. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – With Steve Smith spending the game filling cups with ice and water for his Carolina teammates and many of Pittsburgh’s top players either sitting out or playing little, it was hard to tell if either team is ready to turn things around after disappointing 8-8 seasons.

About the only thing determined in the Steelers’ 19-3 victory over the Panthers on Thursday night in the final preseason game is that Carolina’s reserves can’t hold onto the ball.

Jeff Reed kicked four field goals and Tyrone Carter’s 32-yard interception return for a touchdown with a minute left put it away for the Steelers (4-1), who forced six turnovers in new coach Mike Tomlin’s final tuneup.

“I thought this was a nice finish to a very productive preseason,” Tomlin said.

Steve Smith, citing a sore leg, didn’t play for Carolina (1-3). Neither did Jake Delhomme (arm) and Dan Morgan, who is coming back slowly from multiple concussions. Hines Ward (broken nose) and Heath Miller (shoulder) didn’t dress and Willie Parker never carried the ball for the Steelers.

Forced to wait out a 20-minute lightning delay before sitting through a downpour in the first quarter, fans watched mostly reserves and the lone glimpse they got of Smith was when he filled up dozens of cups behind the bench in the second and third quarters.

“I just work here,” Smith said.

Ben Roethlisberger was 2-of-2 for 16 yards and was sacked by Kris Jenkins to end his only series for the Steelers. Delhomme sat out as a precaution, according to coach John Fox, believes he’ll be ready for the Sept. 9 opener at St. Louis.

David Carr, the five-year starter in Houston signed to be Delhomme’s backup, was 8-for-12 for 85 yards, including a 46-yard pass to rookie Dwayne Jarrett. Keary Colbert appeared to lock up the starting job opposite Smith, adding two catches for 24 yards.

“I feel good. I feel a lot better than I have in past years,” Colbert said.

But Carr, who led the Panthers to their only field goal in the first half, also threw a poor pass over the middle that was easily intercepted by Clint Kriewaldt in the second quarter.

“We were hit and miss. We had some good drives, but then we’d get down to the red zone and kind of sputter out,” Carr said. “Once we get the entire game plan in, have a few days to work on it, we’ll execute it and be fine.”

Carr gave way to undrafted rookie Dalton Bell at the start of the second half. Bell threw an interception and lost a fumble.

Roethlisberger’s backup, Charlie Batch, went 2-of-3 for 12 yards in two series. Third-stringer Brian St. Pierre was just 3-of-10 for 16 yards before leaving with a toe injury.

The final preseason game lived up to its billing as an exercise in keeping the starters healthy _ and providing little insight in the teams’ progress.

Even the anticipated matchup of brothers Maake and Chris Kemoeatu didn’t happen. The Panthers pulled the first-team defense after one series, leaving defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu on the sideline when brother Chris came in with the second-team offense at guard.

Carolina’s defense, which struggled in consecutive losses to Philadelphia and New England, fared better against the Steelers. Julius Peppers barely missed sacking Roethlisberger. Three players later, Jenkins manhandled guard Alan Faneca and brought down Roethlisberger to end the Steelers’ drive after one first down.

“We looked much better than what we had the past two weeks. That’s a good sign,” cornerback Ken Lucas said. “We felt a little bit better as far as the conditioning part. The weather helped a lot, and you saw us fly around more than we did against New England and Philadelphia.”

With 44 players on the two teams set to lose their jobs when rosters are cut Saturday, the second half was important for those on the bubble.

Panthers running back Alex Haynes and receiver Taye Biddle hurt their chances by losing fumbles in the second half.

Rookie William Gay continued his impressive preseason by recovering Haynes’ fumble, which led to Reed’s second field goal. Verron Haynes had 13 carries for 47 yards.

“I just put it on film and let the chips fall where they may,” Haynes said.

The Panthers, outscored 70-20 in their final three games, got only a 31-yard field goal from John Kasay.

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Notes: Panthers DT Stanley McClover (groin) and Steelers C Marvin Philip (ankle) left the game. … The Panthers told fans to leave their seats and wait in the concourse about an hour before the game because of an impending storm. Players were allowed back on the field 10 minutes before the scheduled kickoff, so the start was delayed to give the teams time to warm up. … Steelers punt returner Willie Reid, who muffed his only return Sunday against Philadelphia, had a 30-yard return.


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