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Carolina Panthers

Steelers prevail in preseason finale


CHARLOTTE - Panthers head coach Ron Rivera wanted the first-team offense and defense to get in a successful possession or two before giving way to the reserves.

Rivera got half his wish.

The defense gave up a long touchdown drive to the Pittsburgh Steelers right off the bat, but the offense answered with a touchdown drive of its own before both units exited in the Steelers' 33-17 victory in Thursday night's preseason finale at Bank of America Stadium.

After the game, Rivera confirmed that the first-team offense will include quarterback Cam Newton when the Panthers open the regular season Sept. 11 at the Arizona Cardinals.

"We are looking forward to him being our starter," Rivera said. "He is going to grow as our starter, and we are going to grow as a football team."

The Steelers, led by backup quarterback Charlie Batch, opened the game by moving 80 yards against a Carolina defense still missing linebacker Jon Beason, but the offense bounced back with a 71-yard march.

Newton took off on a 19-yard run on third-and-10 to key the drive, then he hooked up with tight end Jeremy Shockey for a 10-yard touchdown to the delight of the sellout crowd.

"I was pleased with what we did offensively with the first bunch. I thought those guys did some really nice things," Rivera said. "I thought they handled the situations really well considering we played kind of vanilla and basic.

"Defensively, we had our moments. Again, the third-down situations got us. With the first bunch we had the opportunity to get off with a third- and-long and we gave up the third down and kept their drive alive. That's definitely a sore point for us right now."


Newton completed 3-of-5 passes for 25 yards before giving way to Derek Anderson for the remainder of an entertaining offense half that saw the teams combine to score on more than half of their possessions. Anderson played deep into the third quarter, completing 11-of-19 passes for 192 yards.

Jimmy Clausen directed the Panthers' final five series and finished 7-for-17 for 85 yards. His first pass was picked off when a deep ball bounded off Armanti Edwards' hands to safety Will Allen.

On Clausen's second possession, a bad snap set the Steelers up at the 15-yard line, and they salted it away in one play – a touchdown pass from Dennis Dixon to former University of South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders that extended the lead to 33-17.

The Steelers led 20-14 at the half, but the Panthers had their share of highlights.

Anderson hit on 7-of-13 passes for 120 yards in the first half, including a 41-yard touchdown toss to wide receiver David Clowney. The drive was started when running back Mike Goodson turned a dump-off pass into a 38-yard gain.

Anderson added one more big-chunk play to his stat line early in the third quarter, hitting wide receiver Brandon LaFell for a 45-yard gain to set up a short field goal to start the half.

"I knew he was coming to me because he looked at me in the huddle, and then when we got to the line of scrimmage he looked to me again," LaFell said. "I thought, 'Let me get on my horse because this ball is coming to me.'"

It wasn't all good news for the offense, however. Offensive lineman Garry Williams, who started at right guard, suffered a broken ankle early in the second quarter. Williams started in place of Mackenzy Bernadeau, who didn't play because of turf toe. To boot, potential starting guard Geoff Schwartz went on injured reserve Tuesday with a hip injury.

"The right guard spot has kind of been a revolving door," left tackle Jordan Gross said. "You don't want to say it's a bad-luck spot, but everybody's been getting hurt."

On the other hand, starting right tackle Jeff Otah saw his first game action since suffering a knee injury late in the 2009 season.

"It was very important for me to get out there, get my feet wet in the preseason," Otah said. "It's great to be back out there."

Prior to the game, the Panthers waived defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer, a former first-round pick they had claimed off waivers a week ago.

In addition, Carolina claimed fullback Jerome Felton off waivers from Detroit and gave him three carries Thursday for 8 yards.  The team also waived fullback Rashawn Jackson.

The roster currently stands at 79 players. Come Saturday evening, it must be down to 53.

"First and foremost we are going to go through the tape as a coaching staff," Rivera said. "We will get together as a group and talk about the players that played the positions we have to fill.

"Then we will get together - as in myself, the coordinators and (general manager) Marty Hurney - and will discuss the rest of it. Then on Saturday, we will make our decisions."

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