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Steelers Gameday

FINAL: Carolina Panthers 25, Steelers 19

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FOURTH QUARTER

0:59 Steelers kicker Matthew Wright hits a 42-yarder that ought to cap the scoring.

4:32 Steelers leave a back wide open out of the backfield in zone coverage for a touchdown. P.J. Locke tried to make a desperation stop, but was driven into the end zone.

Carolina went for two and got it after Taylor Heinicke escaped the pressure with his feet and found an open man.

6:44 For the second straight week, Zach Gentry has a target go the other way for an interception. This wasn’t a great throw by Hodges, but someone of Gentry’s size shouldn’t be having the ball ripped out of his arms.

8:30 Carolina finds paydirt with Jordan Scarlett on an underneath route from eight yards out. Tegray Scales took a roughing the passer penalty earlier in the drive and missed a tackle on the score.

THIRD QUARTER

0:17: Robert Spillane destroys the back on a blitz and gets the sack. Every linebacker on the fringe has made a splash play.

4:43: Marcelis Branch with an interception.

6:06: An active night for Christian Kuntz. He subbed in as the second-team long snapper and made a tackle in kick coverage.

9:25 Not a great second half for the second-string offensive line. It’s an open question as to how many linemen the Steelers will keep.

The versatility of B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler and Chukwuma Okorafor mean the Steelers probably don’t need a ninth man. Hard to make a case for one given the performance tonight. Getting beat in pass protection and minimal push in the running game.

11:50 Henry Mondeaux having an excellent game. He and Tuzar Skipper combine for a sack. All four outside linebackers now on the board.

15:00 Devlin Hodges starts the second half at quarterback, and he’s promptly dropped with for sack.

Rookie Derwin Gray was beaten by Marquis Haynes, who strip sacked Hodges. Jerald Hawkins recovered the fumble.

HALFTIME STATS

Mason Rudolph 7 for 11, 125 yards, touchdown
Will Grier 10 for 15, 175 yards, touchdown, interception

Benny Snell 4 carries, 12 yards
Alex Armah 2 carries, 8 yards

Johnny Holton 3 catches, 86 yards, touchdown
DeAndrew White 4 catches, 94 yards

SECOND QUARTER

0:09 Rudolph and Holton take advantage of the turnover. Straight go route down the right side and Rudolph dropped it in perfectly.

That’s Rudolph’s fourth touchdown of the preseason. Dobbs had none.

Wright misses the extra point left. Not a great night for the rookie kicker.

0:23 Tuzar Skipper with his second special teams tackle. Outside linebacker decision has not gotten any easier.

0:29 The Steelers’ drive stalls, but Matthew Wright connects from 49 yards out. He’s two of three on the night.

1:02 Rudolph connects with Johnny Holton for 44 yards deep down the seam. Holton is on the fringe of the roster, helping his cause with that catch.

1:14 The tough preseason for rookie corner Justin Layne continues. Will Grier found former track star Aldrick Robinson deep down the right side for a 34-yard touchdown.

Layne left the field with an apparent injury after the play.

6:36 Mason Rudolph takes over for Josh Dobbs at quarterback. Final line for the starter: 3 for 5 for 25 yards and one carry for 11 yards. Two of his three drives went three-and-out.

7:19 Marcelis Branch with a big hit. The Robert Morris alum has been quiet so far this preseason. He’ll need more of that tonight.

12:45 Carolina rookie kicker Joey Slye just nailed a 59-yarder that would’ve been good from 65. With Graham Geno around, someone will be getting a kicker upgrade after the Panthers make their cuts.

13:03 Sutton Smith makes three outside linebackers to record a sack — everyone but Tuzar Skipper, who just missed one. So not a lot of separation so far tonight.

FIRST QUARTER

0:00: Christian Kuntz worked inside to sack Will Grier. More pressure from Henry Mondeau, who has had a nice preseason. A couple of guys hoping for a practice squad spot.

4:38: Jay Elliott just scored a 95-yard defensive touchdown for the Steelers. Who? A 27-year-old linebacker from Toledo that the Steelers signed off the street last week. Yep, it’s preseason Week 4.

Sack, fumble, scoop and score all by Elliott, who has NFL experience with the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys. Matthew Wright extra point is good.

10:07: Starting offense:

QB Josh Dobbs

RB Benny Snell
WR Johnny Holton
WR James Washington
TE Zach Gentry
TE Kevin Rader

LT Chukwuma Okorafor
LG B.J. Finney
C Patrick Morris
RG Fred Johnson
RT Zach Banner

10:09: Backup linebackers need to make special teams plays. Ulysees Gilbert just blocked a field goal. That’ll do. His roster spot seems safer and safer.

14:55: Starting defense:

LDE Tyson Alualu
NT Dan McCullers
RDE Isaiah Buggs

LOLB Jay Elliott
LILB Devin Bush
RILB Tyler Matakevich
ROLB Tuzar Skipper

LCB Artie Burns
SS Marcus Allen
FS Kam Kelly
RCB Cam Sutton

GAMEDAY INFO

Thursday, August 29, 7:00 p.m.
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

SN Coverage: Alan Saunders

TV/Radio: KDKA-TV (Pittsburgh) and NFL Network (Nationally), Steelers Radio Network (102.5 WDVE-FM)

PGH WEATHER NOW FORECAST

Clear skies, 80 degrees at kickoff.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

• The backup quarterback battle will continue to rage, with Josh Dobbs getting a last shot at the starting role. Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges are both expected to play.

• Backup linebacker is another hot spot. Tuzar Skipper, Ulysess Gilbert, Sutton Smith and Robert Spillane look like they’re fighting for one or two spots and should play most of the game.

• A couple of wide receivers that are probably on the outside looking in right now should get some chances to make plays. Include Tevin Jones, Trey Griffey, Johnny Holton and Diontae Spencer in that group.

• There are still some spots to be won on the offensive line, with Jerald Hawkins as the fifth tackle and Fred Johnson and Derwin Gray as the fourth and fifth guards all in the mix for one or two spots.

INJURY UPDATES

OUT: OLB Ola Adeniyi  (knee) and Anthony Chickillo (chest), CB Joe Haden (foot contusion).

STEELERS NOW COVERAGE THIS WEEK

Steelers Players to Watch in Preseason Week 4

Identifying Steeles Practice Squad Options

Steelers Waive Injured CB Brian Allen; Claim CB Jhavonte Dean from Cleveland

Josh Dobbs to Start for Steelers vs. Carolina

Steelers Sights and Sounds: Last Shot

Winners and Losers from Steelers’ Preseason Week 3

Steelers Gameday

Steelers Know ‘Too Much Splash’ Allowed vs. Titans Cause for Concern

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The Steelers are certainly happy with the 6-0 record that they brought back with them from Tennessee on Sunday, but the way the victory happened left an unpleasant taste in the mouth of the victorious Black and Gold.

After racing out to a 27-7 lead, the Steelers yielded points on three of the next four Tennessee possessions, turned the ball over twice, had to sweat a last-minute field goal attempt and were fortunate that Stephen Gostkowski’s effort slipped wide right, securing Pittsburgh the win.

The first half of the game was the way the Steelers want to play football, with a methodical, patient offense that dominated the time of possession and a defense that limited star Titans running back Derrick Henry and got off the field on third down.

But what happened in the second half is what is going to stick with them.

“There was too much splash,” linebacker T.J. Watt said. “We have goals so high for ourselves because we know what we can do. We feel like we can be a truly special defense. That’s why no one’s really satisfied after today. We need to do a lot better job, especially in the second half. It starts with the run. Even though we did a good job in the first half, you’ve got to roll it over into the second half.”

As usual, defensive captain Cam Heyward summed up the mood.

“We’re 6-0. We won the game. Nothing’s guaranteed. It’s a good win,” Heyward said. “But there’s a lot we’ve got to improve on going forward. We were able to answer the challenge in some cases, but we’ve got bigger challenges ahead going forward. …

“There’s a lot of meat on that bone as Coach likes to say. I’m fine saying that. I believe in the guys that we’ve got. I’m confident that we can do more. I look forward to answering the call next week.”

Not that the Tennessee Titans aren’t a quality opponent — they were 5-0 coming in to Sunday’s game — but the Steelers know that as the season goes on and the games get critical, the mistakes they made in the second half against the Titans can be enough to end a team’s season.

“We gave up a big play for a touchdown, we turned the ball over. You do those things against good people, they’re going to get back into the game 100 percent of the time,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “Thankfully, our guys didn’t blink and they were able to hold it together and make enough plays to secure victory.”

But they’re also thankful to be working on correcting those errors with a 6-0 record, alone in first place in the AFC North.

“It’s so important to get out of these games with a win, no matter how awesome or how ugly they look,” Watt said. “The offense did a phenomenal job today, and the defense, we’ve got to do a better job in the second half. … I’m not satisfied at all.”

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Steelers Gameday

From the Steelers Locker Room: Johnson, Smith-Schuster on Setting the Tone

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Steelers wide receivers Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster speak with the media, including Alan Saunders of Steelers Now, via Zoom after the Steelers’ 27-24 victory over the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020.

Johnson and Smith-Schuster talked about the Steelers’ offense setting the tone for the game with its successful first drive and how the team took what it was given against the Tennessee zone defense.

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Steelers Gameday

Steelers’ Robert Spillane Makes Impact Filling in for Devin Bush at ILB

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The Steelers were faced with a double test on Sunday in their first game to be played without starting inside linebacker Devin Bush.

So far, so good.

Bush was placed on injured reserve and is expected to miss the remainder of the 2020 season after suffering an ACL injury that required surgery in the Steelers’ Week 6 win over the Cleveland Browns.

His replacement, third-year pro Robert Spillane, performed admirably against tough competition. The Tennessee Titans run the ball with All-Pro back Derrick Henry better than almost anyone in the country and the also use a pair of talented tight ends and play-action passes to put pressure on defenses.


But the inexperienced Spillane, making his first career start after playing just 39 career snaps on defense coming into the game, proved to be mostly up to the task in Pittsburgh’s 27-24 victory.

“It’s very tough to fill in that middle linebacker position, especially when you have a player as talented as Devin is,” outside linebacker T.J. Watt said. “We truly believe in the next-man-up mentality and I feel like Rob Spillane did a great job.”

The Steelers also made some other changes, moving Bud Dupree around the defense and also some modifications to their sub packages in order to replicate the three-down effort that Bush usually brings.

“We knew it was going to take the whole team to provide depth for Devin,” Spillane said. “We knew it was going to be 11 on defense, offense and special teams to make up for his absence.”

Spillane’s biggest impact — literally — came in the second half at the Steelers’ goal line, when he plugged a gap on a running play and collided with Henry at full speed.

“They’re on the 1-yard line,” Spillane said. “They’ve got a 250-pound running back. There’s no going slow into the hole. I took all my force with me and TJ was there to help, as well.”

Spillane briefly left the game after the big hit and the Titans wound up scoring later on that drive after a defensive penalty on Minkah Fitzpatrick, but on the whole, there defense did a better job of limiting Henry and company than most.

He finished the afternoon with 75 yards on 20 carries, which is the second-lowest rushing total for for the big back over his last 10 games.

On the whole, the Steelers weren’t completely satisfied with their performance defensively, especially in the second half but Spillane’s fill-in work did the trick.

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