Lacation: Charlotte, N.C.; Stadium: Bank of America Stadium; Weather: 70 degress chance of storm; Kickoff: 7:30 PM ET; TV Coverage: KDKA-TV; Announcers: Bob Pompeani (play-by-play), Edmund Nelson (Color analyst), Jeff Verszyla (sideline); Coaches: Mike Tomlin (Steelers) vs. Ron Rivera (Chargers)
Pittsburgh Steelers: Heading into the fourth and final preseason match up, coach Mike Tomlin has expressed how the team’s efforts have not been good enough. The Steelers have lost all three contests to this point and will square off with a familiar franchise they tend to see a lot in the preseason, the Carolina Panthers.
On Thursday, it is more about getting a last look at the depth you have under the starters. To this point, the Steelers look to lack depth especially on the offensive line. This will be a chance for players to give coaches their last reason to keep them as part of the 53-man roster. The Steelers are at a 75-man roster and will be completing their roster moves on Saturday to have a complete roster.
On the injury front, Jarvis Jones, Le’Veon Bell, and Isaac Redman will be sitting out in Thursday’s game against Carolina. Coach Tomlin is excited to let Landry Jones have the bulk of the snaps as far as the quarterbacks are concerned and the three-way battle at running back will consist of LaRod Stephens-Howling, Johnathan Dwyer, and Felix Jones. It is not likely all three backs will make the team along with Bell and Redman.
Carolina Panthers: Running back Johnathan Stewart is starting the 2013 season off of the physically unable to perform list. That makes DeAngelo Williams the main runner early in the season for the Panthers, but on Thursday the Panters will be looking to add depth behind Williams. With Mike Tolbert and Kenjon Barner also shaken up and uncertain for week one, the focus turns to Tauren Poole and Armond Smith.
“This is a very important game, because you have a number of starters that won’t play a lot. The young guys will get their opportunities to come in and show us what they can do. We have a lot of battles. There are a lot of guys that are fighting for positions on this team,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.
What to look for: 1. Like last week, watch to see if the offensive line has progressed any from last Saturday to Thursday. 2. Penalties have still been a problem offensively and defensively. That Steelers will need to get that cleaned up in time for week one. 3. Watch the battles as they will go at it one last time this preseason.
Spotlight Player: Felix Jones led the Steelers in rushing last week with 29 yards on Saturday night after being traded the day before. Now that he has been in a week’s practice with the team and seeing how the Steelers hardly make trades especially for high profile names. Jones should contribute more in week four of the preseason.
Team Quotes: Landry Jones: “It’s just night and day,” said Jones. “Just being here and being around the guys and learning the offense, I think it’s just a total difference in how I feel. I feel a lot more comfortable now than I did at the beginning of training camp, just from a reps aspect. I’m getting a lot more reps and I’m able to practice more.” Mike Tomlin: “Excited about watching these young linebackers sort themselves out in one last opportunity. Really just made a point to them this morning, less about what they do on defense and more about what they do on special teams. I think we need more consistency and above the line effort from some of those guys in that regard, and I think the ones that distinguish themselves will be ones that show an aptitude for play making and understanding of football in that phase.”
Bottom Line: The last preseason game is very important to see what you have depth wise. Although this preseason has not been what everyone may have hoped to see, the Steelers must move on and play smart.
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