Thursday, September 1, 2011

Gameday: Carolina Panthers

Cameron Outdoor Stadium
Radio: 102.5 WDVE and other affiliates

What To Watch For

1. Roster Battles

There are still some open roster spots heading into the last week of the preseason. By our best calculations, there are 33 guys that are a lock to make the team. Behind that, there are 14 more that should make the team, but depending on injuries (such as Chris Carter's hamstring) some of them might not be on the 53-man roster. This leaves 2 open roster spots for guys like Jonathan Dwyer, Arnaz Battle, Tyler Grisham, Chris Scott, Keith Williams, Steve McLendon, and Donovan Warren to battle over.

2. Secondary Shootout

William Gay has looked good so far this preseason after being forced into the #1 corner role. Behind that, Keenan Lewis had a great game against Philly then was injured against Atlanta, the extent of which we're still not sure of. Crezdon Butler played his way into the conversation with his pick-6 against Atlanta. Third round pick Curtis Brown has looked solid and is still in the race to start the year as the dime corner. We'll see rookie Cortez Allen for the first time tonight after he was injured in camp. Donovan Warren has played well and is on the fringe of a roster spot, but it's hard to see the Steelers keeping 8 corners on their 53-man roster. Warren seems destined for the practice squad unless Lewis' injury is worse than it appears.

3. Homestead Charlie

Coach Tomlin announced this week that Ben would not play in tonight's preseason finale and that Charlie Batch would start. To be honest, this is a good move. With Leftwich going down, it is imperative that Ben is healthy for the start of the season, so it's pointless to risk him being injured in a meaningless game against the Carolina Panthers. Batch will get the start and hopefully all he has to do is feed the rock to Redman and Dwyer (who should see a lot of playing time tonight since he's fighting for a roster spot).

4. Emmanuel Sanders

After coming on strong at the end of last season, Sanders broke his foot in the Super Bowl. After months of surgeries and setbacks, Sanders seems ready to go. He should be the #3 receiver once the season starts, though with Antonio Brown's huge preseason, it will be tough to keep him off the field. It will be good to see Sanders get back out there and make some cuts, just so we know he's ready to go in Baltimore.

5. Offensive Line

In the latest move, Doug Legursky gets his shot at RG after Chris Scott and Tony Hills got their days. Scott seems like a forgotten afterthought now, and if Legursky winds up winning the job, the Steelers will need to make sure they have a contingent plan for a backup center, should Legursky get injured. Trai Essex figures to see some time in the middle tonight to prime him for that role. On the outside, rookie Marcus Gilbert looked decent against the Falcons and should see some more time at left tackle and right tackle tonight against Carolina.

Of course, seeing as this is the final preseason game, the cut deadline is this weekend. The Steelers will have to pare their roster from 80 down to 53 for opening day. For some guys, this is their last chance to make an impression on the coaches and win a roster spot. The starters don't figure to see too much time tonight, probably not more than a series if they play at all, to ensure we have a healthy team heading into the September 11 showdown in Baltimore.

No Behind Enemy Lines segment this week, we had some trouble finding a Panthers blogger that didn't slit their wrists after the 2-14 season last year.

Let's get out of this one injury-free and rest up for Baltimore.

Go Steelers!

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