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What to watch: Panthers at Steelers

Posted Aug 27, 2014

Several jobs remain open as Carolina closes out preseason against Steelers Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

The Panthers' fourth and final preseason game takes place on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Heinz Field against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

For some, this game is a formality – a final game day tune-up before the regular season begins.

For others, this is the last chance to win a job on the roster before final cuts on Saturday.

"There are still some jobs that are open," head coach Ron Rivera said. "We have a feel for what is potentially going to be our first 22, and then we go from there. The one thing (general manager) Dave (Gettleman) and I have talked about is keeping an open mind until the very end so that we make good, informed decisions.

"We've got three-to-six positions that are really still up in the air. There are a lot of guys that have done some good things and put themselves right on that cusp."

Here is what to watch as Carolina looks to end the preseason on a winning note.

STARTERS READY TO PLAY: After last week's 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots, Rivera expressed a desire to get the team's starters more action than usual in the preseason finale.

The loss to the Patriots left a sour taste, and starters on both sides of the ball will play the first quarter against the Steelers.

Starters who won't play include quarterback Cam Newton – he's out after suffering a fractured rib against the Patriots – and defensive end Charles Johnson (hamstring) and right guard Trai Turner (groin).

WEBB SHOWCASED: With Newton out, Derek Anderson awaiting the birth of his child and Matt Blanchard on injured reserve, quarterback Joe Webb will get an extended opportunity against the Steelers.

"He can't get hurt," Rivera said.

Webb has had an impressive preseason, and he's proven he deserves to make the team. He'll get plenty of work in Pittsburgh.

HARPER DEBUT: Starting safety Roman Harper returned to practice this week, and he'll make his preseason debut in the finale. Harper missed the previous three games with turf toe.

The Panthers have been in no rush to get the veteran of eight NFL seasons back on the field due to his wealth of experience, but a little game action will be help the first-year Panther get acclimated before the regular season kicks off.

"I came here wanting to fit in and show my worth, and then an injury set me back," Harper said. "Not being able to play with the guys going through the wars was difficult. I just want to get out there in a Panthers uniform, come out of a tunnel somewhere and make it count."

STICKING WITH PHILLY?: Wide receiver Philly Brown has emerged as the Panthers' punt returner. But will he be the returner in the regular season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

A strong outing could help him lock down the job.