CHARLOTTE – Behind an explosive performance from wide receiver Ted Ginn and three more interceptions to bring Carolina's preseason total to 10, the Panthers earned a 25-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers to close out the preseason.
With quarterback Cam Newton and the majority of the starters sitting out the contest, backup Derek Anderson stepped in and connected with Ginn for a 35-yard touchdown on the game's opening series – a six-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
"We had fun," said Anderson, who finished 10-of-15 for 220 yards. "It was nice getting out there and getting in a little bit of a groove early, and it kind of set the tone for the rest of the game."
Pittsburgh, like Carolina, rested most of its starters, and third-string quarterback Landry Jones answered with a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Paulson on the ensuing possession. Carolina regained the lead with a 19-yard field goal from Graham Gano early in the second quarter.
Later, with the Panthers facing first-and-20 from their own 13 yard line, Anderson reared back and launched a deep pass for Ginn. The wideout kicked it into high gear and caught the pass in stride for an 87-yard touchdown, giving Carolina a 17-7 lead.
"He let it go, and we connected," Ginn said. "It was off to races."
Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham converted a 37-yard field goal in the closing moments of the second quarter, and those were the final points the Panthers allowed.
The second half was dominated by the Carolina defense.
With Pittsburgh in position to cut into the lead at the Panthers' 9-yard line, cornerback Josh Norman jumped Jones' pass intended for wide receiver Derek Moye and returned it 70 yards down the left sideline before Moye dragged him down.
"Attack oriented defense," Norman said. "That's what we are, and we're going to continue to do that."
Norman's fourth interception of the preseason led to a 40-yard field goal from Gano.
The next Pittsburgh possession ended with another interception on a Jones' pass for Moye – this time by safety Colin Jones.
Once again, the turnover led to a field goal as Gano was successful from 23 yards out to extend the lead to 23-10 at the start of the fourth quarter.
A 56-yard Brad Nortman punt unexpectedly added to Carolina's lead. Steelers punt returner Reggie Dunn tried to reverse field after catching the punt at his own 3-yard line. Defensive end Mario Addison and safety Anderson Russell made him pay, dragging Dunn down in the end zone for a safety.
A second interception by Jones allowed Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen – who entered the game late in the second quarter and played the entire second half – to kneel down for the victory.
The victory enabled Carolina to finish the preseason 3-1 for the team's first winning preseason since 2006.
Head coach Ron Rivera, his staff and the Panthers front office must now cut the roster down to the 53-man limit by 6 p.m. Saturday.
Rivera said the strong performance by the team's backups in Thursday's win won't make those tough decisions any easier.
"I think (tonight's game) is going to help us in some circumstances, it's going to hurt us in others," Rivera said. "It's going to make it tough on us. We had some guys that played really, really well. Some guys took advantage of opportunities. (General manager) Dave (Gettleman) and I and the staff will get together and discuss what the best 53 is for us.
"It will be tough. The thing that really showed is that we have some good, young backups. They played very well against a physical, tough Pittsburgh Steelers team."
NOTES: Wide receiver David Gettis pulled his hamstring during warm-ups. "Hopefully, it's one of those things that's (just) a couple weeks or a week or maybe not even a week," Rivera said. "We'll see." … Safety D.J. Campbell suffered a hamstring injury during the game and did not return. … Recently signed offensive lineman Travelle Wharton started at left guard and played one series. "I thought it went well," Wharton said. "There were butterflies just getting back on the field."