This Thursday night schedule has me all out of whack as all of us, contributors to the site that is, have been busy this week making a detailed preview difficult. The truth is we all know the starters will play very little tonight and so it will be battle of the bubble players for probably 3rd quarters. That puts a damper on some of the drama unless you like seeing sloppy play and guys getting all amped up for making a simple tackle.Regardless I'm going to take a schwag at what to expect tonight in this final preseason game match-up.
The Steelers bring one of the best defenses to Charlotte yet we don't really know how many starters will actually take the field. I realize this is cheating a bit but I jumped over to SBN Steeler site Behind the Steel Curtain to see what the Steelers might be focusing on. It seems former GT alum LB Kenyaron Fox (woot!) will start for Lawrence Timmons:
Mr. Fox: Keyaron Fox got to join the highlight reel of Steelers linebackers making audibly violent hits against Buffalo, when he crushed return man Leodis McKelvin. He continued to thump his way toward recognition, and with the ankle injury to Lawrence Timmons, he'll start at the mack linebacker spot against Carolina. It's up in the air whether Timmons will be able to play in the season-opener.
Fox is one of the best LB's to come out GT so don't think he represents a let down. Also, count the Steeler fans among those that have taken notice of RB Mike Goodson:
In a game that typically only has the allure of watching the 51-55 ranked players on teams fight for special teams spots, it'll be interesting to see how Goodson can handle facing the starting units of two of the best defenses in the game. He's been impressive so far, let's see if he can continue it.
At WR we are still waiting for the explosion from Dwayne Jarrett. Something tells me we might still be waiting come Friday. WR Kenny Moore on the other hand has made a case for the #3 wideout slot. I don't see any other WR making the team except for maybe speedy UDFA Larry Beavers. Beavers at this point has to show enough simply to earn a spot on the practice squad.
The back-up positions along the offensive line appear to be lining up. The release of Gerald Cadogan earlier in the week suggests Geoff Schwartz has earned the back-up RT position. I would assume C/G MacKenzie Bernadeau and rookie G Duke Robinson will lock up two more. That leaves G/T Jonathan Palmer, C/G Justin Geisinger and LT Garry Williams battling for the last spot. My guess is Williams wins the ninth and final spot.
Panther Defense vs. Steeler Offense
I think the Panther 1st team defense might play the entire first half simply to get in more work and evaluate some tough choices. Has high-string B Jeremy Leman done enough on special teams to earn a spot? Now that S Nate Salley has been put on IR does that automatically give Joe Fields a roster spot or could Quinton Teal play SS it in a pinch?
Does the trade for DT Louis Leonard mean UDFA Marlon Favorite is practice squad bound? The biggest focus for me is the performance of the DT against the Steeler running game. RB Rashard Mendenhall is making noise and will look to put up big runs against the Panthers. The Panther secondary will also look to rebound from a dismal performance against the Ravens.
I've already mentioned the Panthers coverage teams have been suspect so I'm sure Steeler PR Stefan Logan is looking to burn them:
His lack of ability to make the squad solely as an offensive player aside, he's turned enough heads as the first explosive return man the Steelers have had since Antwaan Randle-El. Len Pasquarelli of ESPN writes that the Steelers have had 16 kick returners and 10 punt returners since Randle-El.
Logan, the diminutive pinball from small Division II University of South Dakota, has done enough with returns alone to merit a roster spot.
He sounds like our version of Larry Beavers yet Beavers has yet to do anything notable in live action, except for muffing a catch that is. Let's see if the Panthers can contain Logan or if they give up another lengthy return. On our side I want to see more of Captain Munnerlyn returning punts. He seems to have a nose for the open hole and isn;t scared to take a hit.
Let me hear from you!