The Pittsburgh Steelers held on for a 17-16 win in their final exhibition game against the Carolina Panthers Thursday night at Heinz Field.
As expected the starting quarterbacks for both teams did not start the game, joining most other key players.
Not to worry, as Charlie Batch took the opening drive for a touchdown. He capped the drive with maybe the best pass of his career, 37 yards to Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders was double covered and had to lay out to make the grab where only he could catch it.
Batch certainly made his argument to carry three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. He finished the game 11 for 14 for 102 yards and a touchdown.
After a three and out by the Panthers, Chris Rainey showed his abilities as he took a punt return to pay dirt only be called back for
a holding penalty.
Rainey also returned another punt for a touchdown later in the first quarter, which also was called back for a holding call.
Safe to say his spot is locked up on the 53-man roster. His special teams abilities can give Antonio Brown the break he will need, especially after signing a big contract.
Jonathan Dwyer led the rushing attack for Pittsburgh with 63 yards on 13 carries.
Defensively Casey Hampton took a few more snaps than he normally would after coming off the PUP list. Hampton’s presence in the middle can always be felt by both teams and tonight was no different.
With the Steelers having a banged up linebacking corps going into the game, a lot of young players got reps early.
Sean Spence, Chris Carter and Adrian Robinson all tried to gain the coach’s attention one last time. The young linebackers all had good nights on the field and will likely all make the 53-man roster.
Drew Butler also had all the punting responsibilities, putting together nearly a 41-yard average. Suspicions lean towards Butler being the regular season punter with Kapinos having injury problems.
The Steelers finish the preseason with a 3-1 record. Pittsburgh will travel to Denver for their 2012 regular season opener, an 8:20 p.m. game in Peyton Manning’s return to action.