Steelers 17, Panthers 16
Charlie Batch isn’t much on predictions. Still, the Pittsburgh
Steelers’ longtime backup quarterback believes he knows what he’ll
be doing next week.
”I totally expect to be sitting in the meetings Monday
morning,” Batch said.
The 37-year-old certainly played like a guy deserving of a 15th
NFL season in Pittsburgh’s 17-16 preseason win over Carolina on
Thursday night. Batch completed 11 of 14 passes for 102 yards and a
perfect 37-yard touchdown to Emmanuel Sanders to make a case he
should stick around after teams trim their rosters to 53 on
”I feel like I can still play,” Batch said. ”I feel that if I
step in the huddle, guys can count on me.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Jimmy Clausen, who passed for 173
yards and two touchdowns, including a 79-yard score to rookie
Lamont Bryant with 2:31 to play to bring the Panthers (2-2) within
a point. The 2-point conversion failed, however, and kicker Justin
Medlock missed a 50-yard field goal with 32 seconds left.
Clausen insists he has ”no idea” whether he’ll beat out Derek
Anderson for the right to back up starter Cam Newton, but showed in
the waning moments of the exhibition season he can perform under
”My name gets called, that’s what you have to do is give the
team a chance to win games and that’s what I did tonight with the
offense,” Clausen said.
Both teams sat the majority of their top players.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and defensive back Troy Polamalu
did not play for Pittsburgh (3-1), while Carolina coach Ron Rivera
gave Newton and wide receiver Steve Smith the night off.
The Steelers, however, suffered a blow when rookie linebacker
Sean Spence went down in the third quarter with what coach Mike
Tomlin called a ”significant” left knee injury. The third-round
pick out of Miami (Fla.) was trying to chase down Clausen when he
took an awkward step and wrenched his left leg. Spence slammed his
helmet on the turf before being tended to by trainers and was
carted off the field.
Spence was the latest and most serious of a series of injuries
to the team’s linebacking corps. James Harrison (knee) and Jason
Worilds (wrist) didn’t play at all during the preseason and backup
Stevenson Sylvester (knee) is out several weeks after getting
nicked up during training camp.
”I’ve been playing this game a long time and have been in a lot
of physical battles, but to see a serious injury like that to a guy
in just his fourth preseason game, it really makes you wonder,”
Polamalu said. ”Hopefully, we won’t have to deal with any more
There were bright spots outside of the quarterbacks. Pittsburgh
rookie running back and kick returner Chris Rainey showcased his
blazing speed with a pair of punt returns for touchdowns, though
both scores were called back by holding penalties that occurred
after Rainey had already raced past.
While coach Mike Tomlin was upset with the flags, he liked what
he saw from the team’s fifth-round draft pick.
”I thought he did some nice things in terms of making unblocked
guys miss,” Tomlin said. ”I think that any reputable punt
returner is capable of making those first one to two potential
tacklers miss. He showed that tonight.”
In addition to the 50-yarder in the final minute, Medlock also
missed a 56-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter. Both
kicks were wide, which is better than short, proof Rivera believes
he made the right call by taking the unproven Medlock over veteran
Olindo Mare, who was let go earlier this week.
”The kid’s got a leg … he’ll make kicks for us,” Rivera
said. ”I’m pretty excited about what he can give us as far as the
distance with his leg.”
The Steelers did allow a handful of starters to break a sweat,
including nose tackle Casey Hampton. The 12-year veteran spent the
first three weeks of training camp on the physically unable to
perform list while recovering from offseason knee surgery. Still,
Hampton vowed to be ready for the opener and he sprinted onto the
field when he was introduced.
The five-time Pro Bowl selection played throughout the first
quarter and finished with two tackles.
”I’m out there playing, so I’m feeling pretty good,” Hampton
said. ”I told you I’d be ready to go when the season opens, that
was my main goal.”
NOTES: Pittsburgh WR Mike Wallace, who signed his one-year
tender on Tuesday, did not dress for the Steelers. Wallace will
become eligible to start practice on Friday, though the Steelers
don’t return to the practice field until next week. … Carolina LB
Jon Beason did not play again. Beason has been dealing with a
hamstring injury throughout camp. … Both teams open the season on
Sept. 9, when the Steelers play in Denver and the Panthers visit
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