Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gameday: Carolina Panthers

Heinz Field
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates

We have come to the end of the preseason. We stand on the precipice of regular season football, ready to pick up right where we left off against Cleveland. But first, we have to endure one more practice game.

What To Watch For

1. No Injuries

This should sound familiar by now, so I don't need to delve into it too much. The star starters probably won't play at all in this game and those that have minor injuries probably won't play either unless they are roster bubble players. Nevertheless, no team makes it through an entire NFL season without having at least a few starters miss games due to injury so it is important that the Steelers make it through this game that doesn't count with as many healthy bodies as possible.

2. Keep it Vanilla

We play the Panthers again in 3 weeks, so the Steelers will likely keep their playbook very limited so as not to put too much on tape for the Panthers. Additionally, with the rematch coming shortly and Landry Jones at quarterback, don't expect too many audible calls to be used on offense. The last thing we need is for the Panthers to get a read on what our signals and cues are for audibles/hot reads just 3 weeks before we play them in a game that counts. On both offense and defense, keep it simple, get through this game, and let's be done with the preseason.

3. Ribs

The last preseason game marks the annual RibFest at Heinz Field. If you're watching the game you can bet that Edmond Nelson will mention the ribs no less than 10 times during the first half of the game. When he devours a rack on-air at halftime, that's pretty much all he'll be talking about the second half too. If you're listening on the radio, it would be a sincere disappointment if Craig Wolfley doesn't work "ribs" into everything he says on the broadcast.

4. Vets vs Youth

There are a handful of veterans on the roster who are locked in battles for roster spots with young players. The most interesting is at outside linebacker where Chris Carter is seemingly locked in a battle with undrafted free agent Howard Jones. HoJo has been all around the ball in the preseason and has an intriguing upside. At safety, Will Allen is getting a serious push from Robert Golden to be the backup free safety, but the Steelers may elect to keep 5 safeties instead of 4, which would give both players a roster spot. At WR, Darrius Heyward-Bey took a big step forward in the last game by hauling in a touchdown pass and playing well on special teams. Justin Brown and Derek Moye haven't shown much this preseason and at this point it looks like the veteran DHB has an inside track to the 5th WR spot on the roster. At corner, veterans Antwon Blake and Brice McCain seem to have their names pencilled in to the 4th and 5th spots, but the Steelers could always surprise and opt to keep 5th round pick Shaq Richardson who has been injured for much of camp.

5. Landry Jones Playing Himself Off the Team

This might not be exactly what happens, but given the way he played in the second preseason game against Buffalo, it is entirely possible that Landry Jones does not make the final cut down to 53 players. Of course, the Steelers always keep 3 quarterbacks, so that would entail going out and signing another quarterback off of waivers. Jones will likely see most of the work in this game (although the team did not cut Branden Kay in the first round of cuts, so if Jones is awful we may see Kay as well). If Jones still can't get anything done under center, it may force the team to cut him loose in order to send him down to the practice squad. And if you think Landry Jones wouldn't clear waivers, you're crazy.

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