The final preseason game of the year between the Carolina Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers is something of a tradition. This year’s game takes place before the 53 man deadline, so it is a last chance for players on the bubble to make their case.
According to Max Henson of Panthers.com, Coach Rivera said that 3 to 6 positions are up in the air. Henson also reported that the Panthers would not play Cam Newton, Trai Turner, and Charles Johnson. However this game will mark the first appearance of free agent safety pickup Roman Harper in a Panther uniform.
Date: August 28
Time: 7:30 PM
Venue: Heinz Field
Local TV: WCCB Charlotte
Radio: WBT (99.3 FM)
Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers defense has been constantly retooled, but this year feels more transitional than most. While defensive end Cameron Heyward is proving to be a force on the line, the 3-4 pass rush from the Steelers outside linebackers has been inconsistent.
On offense, the Steelers are still looking for the balanced attack that took them to two Super Bowl wins in the last ten years. While Ben Roethlisberger can still make plays when no play can be made, the Steelers hope running backs LeVeon Bell and LaGarrette Blount can restore the Steelers run game of old. That was not helped by Bell and Blount getting a marijuana possession charge. I guess they did it together, at least. Both will be available for the game against the Panthers, but likely suspended for some regular season action.
The Steelers last met the Panthers in Bank of America Stadium for the fourth game of the preseason last year. The Panthers won 25-10 as Derek Anderson threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Ted Ginn also accounted for two scores. The Panthers will play the Steelers later this year on September 21 at home.
Steelers Player to Watch: Jarvis Jones, Linebacker
I think I may pick a pass rusher form the other team any time I can against the Panthers line this season. Jones had an underwhelming rookie season, but this is year 2 and he should be sorting out adjustments by now. Therefore this is a perfect storm of player needing to prove himself coming up against a still patchwork offensive line. I do not know how much the Steelers will play Jones in this game, but they will try to exploit some of the same things the Patriots did.
Panthers Player to Watch: Roman Harper, Safety
The two-time Pro Bowler Harper has been held out of the preseason after suffering turf toe, so it will be interesting to see what effect he has on the Panthers secondary in his first action back. Harper brings a level of experience that the secondary has needed in these early weeks. Harper will pair with Thomas DeCoud, which means the Panthers starting safeties both played for NFC South rivals last year. It is uncertain how long Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be on the field, but trying to figure him out will be Harper’s first test.
Panthers Underdog Player to Watch: Joe Webb, quarterback
Cam Newton is out due to injury. Derek Anderson’s wife is expecting a baby. Matt Blanchard is on IR. That means that a lot of playing time is coming for Joe Webb against Pittsburgh. Webb has enjoyed a good preseason with good showings against the Bills and Patriots. Webb may need one for push to secure a roster spot, though that is more likely to happen with Cam’s health issues of the moment. Look for big plays out of Webb and other guys who might be on the cut line.