The most obvious thing that can be said about tonight’s preseason game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Carolina Panthers would be that it was ugly for the road team. The Steelers entered the contest having gone 3-0 in their first three exhibition games, but you certainly wouldn’t know it based on what transpired on the field.
It very much felt like a team playing its fourth preseason game facing a team playing its third preseason game. But we already knew that that was exactly what it was. Largely, the Panthers played their starters on both sides of the ball. Largely, the Steelers did not.
The NFL is inaugurating a 17-game regular season schedule this year, and, correspondingly, a three-game preseason schedule. But with the Steelers playing in the Hall of Fame game, they had the ‘luxury’ of having their usual four this year.
The thing is, every team is learning how to handle having three preseason games rather than two. For the most part, teams have seemed to be treating the first three games as they normally would, while disregarding the fourth, with the third preseason game being their ‘tune-up’ contest in which they gameplan and give extend playing time to their starters.
That is where the Panthers were, while the Steelers were very much in fourth preseason mode, where only young and unproven starters, such as Kendrick Green, Chukwuma Okorafor, and James Pierre were in the game. Not even Najee Harris or Cameron Sutton were in the game.
And they certainly didn’t gameplan for the Panthers. Everything about this game indicated the mismatch, with the 34-9 final score only serving as the most objective example. Carolina put up over 400 yards of offense, while Pittsburgh fell shy of 225. They turned the ball over several times. They controlled the ball for under 24 minutes, much to Alex’s chagrin as the defensive play charter.
The bottom line? Yeah, we probably shouldn’t take much away from this game. That doesn’t mean that the Steelers are the 3-0 team from the first three preseason games, either, but due to the unique (to date) nature of this preseason, the uneven positions the Steelers and Panthers were in relative to their exhibition schedule made this one useless for global evaluation.
Instead, it was all about individual scouting, and frankly, a lot of individuals did not measure up. I don’t know that anybody actually played their way onto the roster tonight, but I’m confident that at least one or two played their way off of it, or at least off the bubble. Not to single him out, but Mathew Sexton was a name getting buzz, and then he muffed two punts.