The Steelers take a 16-10 lead into halftime on the stretch of a strip sack and 88-yard touchdown return from Jayrone Elliott and a 31-yard touchdown pass from Mason Rudolph to Johnny Holton. Joshua Dobbs got the start, but the offense wasn’t able to to much with him in the game. Rudolph led the team to nine points in the final two minutes, thanks to a Cameron Sutton interception. Matthew Wright missed a field goal and an extra point. Tuzar Skipper has two tackles on special teams already.
Devlin Hodges started at quarterback, Benny Snell tackled in the backfield. And again. On third and 15, Hodges was sacked, losing the ball, Jerald Hawkins recovering. Jordn Berry punting from the back of his own end zone kicked to about the Panthers 40, Trey Griffey making the tackle.
Isaiah Buggs made the tackle for loss on first down. Henry Mondeaux got the initial pressure, with Skipper making the sack, his fourth of the preseason. I can’t recall a defender ever recording more for the Steelers in a single preseason. A screen gained some yards but now enough for a first down. Diontae Johnson had a decent punt return, making a couple of tacklers miss.
From the 25, Hodges underthrew his tight end on first down. Trey Edmunds was tackled in the backfield. Hodges was sacked yet again on second third down. Two awful drives by the offense to start the second half, largely thanks to the offensive line.
Tuzar Skipper got himself a second sack, this one another fumble, on the ensuing defensive drive. It’s his fifth sack of the preseason. Marcelis Branch picked off a pass a short time later, the third turnover of the game and second interception.
The offense was not able to make the most of the turnover, however, ultimately settling for a punt, which was downed inside the 10 by Brandon Reilly, who has made a few special teams plays tonight.
On the ensuing drive, Jayrone Elliott made the tackle on first down. After a short second-down gain, the Panthers were able to convert on third down. Robert Spillane got a sack two plays later, bulldozing over the running back. Spillane has done a good job for himself this preseason and could have a practice squad spot in his future.
The Panthers’ reserve defense continues to shut down Pittsburgh’s offense, resulting in another punt. A defensive penalty put the Panthers on the 30 11 minutes into the fourth quarter. In part due to defensive penalties, Carolina quickly drove down the field and scored, taking a 17-16 lead.
Skipper was on the kick return unit for the ensuing kickoff, which sailed out of the back of the end zone. Once again, the offensive line was flagged for holding, now with the likes of Damian Prince in at left tackle. On first and 20 from the 15, Malik Williams carried for a short gain. Hodges completed to Reilly for the first down a play later. He was intercepted on the next play looking for Zach Gentry, a complicated play to say the least.
It didn’t take Carolina long to capitalize with a 20-plus yard touchdown, and they completed the two-point conversion to follow as well.
Malik Williams had a big drop in the middle of the field, but Hodges was able to convert for a first down on the next play. A couple plays later, he was sacked as he tried to scramble outside the pocket. Then he converted to Diontae Spencer at the sticks. Another quick pass to Spencer and he was able to make the first defender miss to pick up another first down. Just his fourth reception of the preseason and first since the opener.
A quick out to Tevin Jones and a move to turn the corner on the defensive back yielded another first down for this, the third-string offense. A penalty brought the ball around the 20, but a pass short of the line of scrimmage to Reilly brought him down for a loss. A hold on Brumfield negated the play. Hodges scrambled on the following play for a short gain. His pass on second down was batted down at the line. Now third and long, the pass was incomplete, Wright connecting on a field goal to make it 25-19 with 53 seconds to play. The Panthers quickly ran out the game with a first down to give the Steelers their first loss of the preseason.