Steelers Finish Preseason 3-1 With Solid Effort Against Panthers

The fourth game of the preseason is always the one where starters sit out and third stringers play for their lives. The fact that the Steelers are now 3-1 after a 33-17 win over the Panthers is less important than the players who starred. Here’s some quick thoughts on who stood out.

* The most encouraging sight in the final exhibition game was the play of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders led the Steelers receivers with four catches for 60 yards. In his first action since injuring his foot in the Super Bowl, Sanders looked like he hadn’t missed a day. Admittedly, it’s easier to get open against second and third-string Panthers’ defenders, but Sanders showed the quickness, good hands and solid route running that should give defenses trouble. Picking between him and Antonio Brown for playing time is going to be a real difficult problem.

* If Sanders showed a burst, the same could be said about tailback Jonathan Dwyer. If every game was the fourth game of the preseason, Dwyer would be getting a bust in Canton — cutdown day seems to inspire him. He rushed for 83 yards on 20 carries last year against the Panthers with a 36-yard dash. This year Dwyer rushed for 175 yards on 37 carries with a 50-yard touchdown run. Dwyer showed surprising speed, a good ability to run behind his pads and more elusiveness than you would expect.

After the way he ran tonight, Dwyer actually seemed to earn a roster spot. Before this week you could argue he was getting the spot by default because of Baron Batch’s injury.

* On a less encouraging note, cornerback Crezdon Butler made strides toward securing a roster spot last week with a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown. He gave back some of that goodwill this week as he was beaten for a 41-yard touchdown pass.

* Rookie corner Curtis Brown was also beaten for a big gain. In Brown’s case, he simply didn’t keep up with his man and was unable to adjust as the receiver came back for an underthrown ball.

* It sure looked like Keith Williams is headed to the practice squad when he didn’t play last week. The best explanation for that is to make sure other teams don’t get much tape to evaluate him. But Williams was back on the field this week. And he actually got onto the field before Chris Scott did. It’s hard to say whether either of them will make the final roster, but to be honest, neither is likely to have the talent to cause any sleepless nights worrying about losing them.

* Cortez Allen got his first action as a Steeler and he generally looked OK. He made a nice tip that turned into a Will Allen interception, then he dropped another potential interception, although that was really all about Jimmy Clausen’s pathetic attempts to impersonate an NFL quarterback more than anything that Allen did — Clausen missed his man by several yards. The decision of which cornerbacks to keep is going to be the most difficult decision the Steelers’ front office has to make this weekend.

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  • Cols714

    I like your comment on Williams and Scott. It seems like fans are always worried about losing players. Usually guys that head to the practice squad aren’t all that talented. If Williams or Scott or Cortez Allen are picked up by another team, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

    • JJ Cooper

      Cortez Allen I’d worry about more because that would then seem to be an awful draft pick. If you take an extremely raw cornerback in the fourth round you can’t be shocked when he isn’t ready to help out right away. He played well in his limited action tonight. Cutting a sixth-round guard who you hoped could help out isn’t ad much of a problem to me.

      • Callouswhisper

        Ok saying a 4th round project CB is a silly draft pick is well silly. When Steelers drafted Ike he was a project and when you draft outside first 2 rounds at the back end of of each round yeh you are not going to get immediate contributers unless you get extremely fortunate. Think yer being a little harsh.

        • JJ Cooper

          Callous, please re-read my comment. I’m not saying it’s a silly pick. I’m saying it would be silly to cut him. I never expected him to do anything this year. But the Steelers had to know that when they drafted him. He’s shown athleticism, that’s all they could have expected. So to me, he has to make the team.

          • Callouswhisper

            Fair enough but to seems to be awful pick, I still have Mark Madden scars from his BS declaration over Ike. Cortez Allen has a very nice skill set and even in short time on field you can tell he is different. Just the reach alone to get to that ball was a great play. On Brown, the break up at goaline would have happened even if Edwards gets it, brown was whacking though the ball, Edwards would have had to have Cris Carter hands to keep possession and the deep ball yes he got beat but his awareness will come to break on underthrown balls. I also (shoot me now) thought Gay had a good game.

      • Anonymous

        Agree with JJ here.  The whole point of the C.Allen pick was that he wouldn’t be playing this year but could be the CB of the future…if you lose him then that was a wasted pick.

      • Anonymous

        Agree with JJ here.  The whole point of the C.Allen pick was that he wouldn’t be playing this year but could be the CB of the future…if you lose him then that was a wasted pick.

  • Callouswhisper

    JJ you make it sound like Brown got burned bad, he didnt. The ball was underthrown Brown just didnt get his head around in time. More importantly he made a great break at goaline jut a few plays later. Surprised no love for Warren? On C. Allen he looked better than ok, that tip was damn good and he looked fluid in hips and lateral movement, he actually stood out. ALso surprised you didnt mention Gilbert who had a great game.

    • JJ Cooper

      Callous, Gotta disagree with you on the LaFell catch against Brown. LaFell had a step on Brown where if the ball was thrown ahead of him he would have beaten Brown. Then because he was trying to catch up, he didn’t get his head around to recognize the underthrown ball. As far as the break at the goal line, that ball hit Edwards in the hands before Brown got there, Edwards just dropped it. But yeah, otherwise he was fine. Nice special teams tackle for Brown too. Good point on Gilbert. At this point, I’d expect we’ll see Essex and Gilbert as the two dress backup OL.

  • Randy Steele

    I think the surprise cut may be Sepulveda. Kapinos has certainly had the better pre-season.