The Pittsburgh Steelers
take their first-class football squad to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers
Thursday. Both squads will be busy answering last-minute questions.
The Carolina Panthers are still sorting out their quarterback dilemma. Cam Newton has not exactly run away with the job. Still, he is just one big game away from putting Jimmy Clausen in his rearview mirror.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will be doing everything in their power to keep their squad healthy during Thursday's affair.
They are just getting back some brittle stars like Troy Polamalu
, so there is no sense risking a title run on a preseason contest. This is the time for the youth of each team to make their statements before the final cuts.
The last tune-up of 2011 is upon us, so let's break down all the finer details of the two squads.
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Thursday, 8:00 p.m. ET
KDKA Pittsburgh; WCCB Charlotte Carolina Panthers Network. Streaming online at NFL
.com (must purchase preseason package
for $9.99); live look-ins on NFL Network. Replay on NFL Network on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET.
WDVE 102.5 FM/970 ESPN Pittsburgh; WBT-FM Charlotte; Sirius (Charlotte) 132
Steelers' Key Addition
The Pittsburgh Steelers take their ground and pound effort and go vertical. They have added the perfect weapon to lineup at receiver.
Jerricho Cotchery will add a weapon for Ben Roethlisberger
to target, and his motivation to prove his worth will see his stock rise in Pittsburgh.
Panthers' Key Addition
The Carolina Panthers have the pleasure of finding out first hand if Cam Newton is the real deal or a pretender.
It may take a season for Newton to claim the starting role in Charlotte, but as the first overall selection, he is assured of being given the reigns at some point.
Steelers' Biggest Loss
Pittsburgh did well to return the majority of their free agents from last year's title runners-up squad. The only person they will miss is Flozell Adams.
Adams would have offered some depth. The fact that he is the key missing link should show you how strong this current squad is.
Panthers' Biggest Loss
Richard Marshall gave the Carolina Panthers a threat in the secondary. The Panthers had to squint just to see any semblance of something good on last year's squad.
Marshall was an underrated corner on a very bad team. He will be missed as the Panthers continue to build a playoff-contending team.
What They're Saying
The Washington Post
reports most star players will make way for role players on Thursday. One receiver will be keyed in on bringing his best game against the Panthers.
"Wide receiver Tyler Grisham has been in this position before. He’s spent time on the practice squad in each of the last two seasons after failing to make the roster out of camp. He’s had another solid preseason but knows the odds are stacked against him. He’s likely no higher than sixth on the depth chart. He says his job is to make it hard for the coaches to cut him."
The Panthers will be without linebacker Jon Beason who is hoping to make it back from foot surgery for the opener on September 11th. He tells the The Star
“The biggest thing I’m worried about now is conditioning. But I have to take on that challenge and do mental reps as I’ve been doing (to learn the defense) and hopefully it sticks in my mind."
Steelers Player To Watch
Antonio Brown continues to move up the depth chart. The Steelers should be very deep at receiver with the emergence of Brown.
There is no secret that Hines Ward isn't getting any younger, leaving players like Brown to lay claim to vital touches this season.
Panthers Player To Watch
Cam Newton, Cam Newton and Cam Newton. Other than the obvious, I am interested to see how Jeremy Shockey continues to meld with this young team.
He will also be highlighted after allegedly saving a teammates life by issuing the Heimlich maneuver. Shockey as the good guy? Anything is possible for this Panthers team.
Matchup To Watch
The Panthers will need a lot more defense if they are going to win some ball games with this staff. The Steelers will be pounding away at a linebacker corps that has been hit with injuries and defections.
I am interested to see which young gun will step up to put the hurt on the Steelers' rushing attack.
Steelers' Key Position Battle
Nothing is settled at the backup tight end position for the Steelers. John Gilmore offers a blocking beast with little red zone panache.
David Johnson has been able to shake off some early preseason jitters, and could win the two spot back if he has a good game.
Panthers' Key Position Battle
It looks all the more likely that Jimmy Clausen will lead the Panthers out on opening day. However, this is a tight race that Cam Newton can win with a spirited effort.
He has slowly grasped the offense as the preseason has progress. Week 4 will make or break his claim as a rookie starter.
This game is all about the haves
playing the have nots
. The Panthers are a dreadful mess that will need some magic to mount more than five wins this year.
On the flip side, the Steelers are once again a favorite to ride their deep squad late into the postseason. Pittsburgh will have all of their stars in and out in a flash, so get in and watch the game early.
Aside from that, Newton will have the time to lead a few drives against a tough Steelers defense. It will be very telling how he reacts to constant pressure in the pocket.
Steelers 24, Panthers 13