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Holton, ‘Backers Stand Out as Steelers Wrap Preseason with Loss to Carolina

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The Steelers dropped their preseason finale on Thursday, losing 25-19 to the Carolina Panthers to finish the preseason with a 3-1 record.

The backup quarterback battle, which was the main story throughout the preseason, seems to have been all but solved, as second-year passer Mason Rudolph once again did the superior job of moving the offense and providing the only offensive Pittsburgh score.

After Cameron Sutton intercepted Will Grier with less than 30 seconds to play in the first half, Rudolph went up top to Johnny Holton for a 31-yard touchdown pass on a perfectly thrown strike that dropped right into Holton’s breadbasket.

Rudolph finished 7 of 11 for 125 yards and the score. It was the fourth touchdown of the preseason for Rudolph, compared to none for Josh Dobbs and two for Devlin Hodges.

Dobbs started the game against Carolina, but was mostly ineffective, completing 3 of 5 for 21 yards. Two of the three drives he led were three-and-outs.

Rudolph also connected with Holton on a 44-yard bomb earlier in the game. Holton slipped, preventing him from what possibly scoring a touchdown. That play set up a Matthew Wright field goal.

Holton finished with three catches on three targets for 86 yards to lead Steelers receivers. He also had a tackle in kickoff coverage. The former Oakland Raiders speedster perhaps did the best job of making a case for a roster spot in the preseason finale.

The other big battle to watch came at linebacker, where Ulysees Gilbert, Tuzar Skipper, Sutton Smith and Robert Spillane are in the mix for one or two spots.

Gilbert seems to have cemented his status on the 53-man roster. He blocked a field goal and had three tackles on defense while playing a ton of special teams snaps.

Skipper got the special teams playing time he’d been lacking, making two punt cover tackles to go along with six on defense, including two sacks and a forced fumble. The UDFA out of Toledo finished the preseason with five sacks in four games.

But it was also a good night for Skipper’s competition. Smith played his best game. He had one-half of a sack and 2 1/2 tackles for a loss, two quarterback hurries and a pass defended.

Late addition Jay Elliott made a splash play at outside linebacker, as well. The 27-year-old former Green Bay Packer and Dallas Cowboy sacked Grier, forced a fumble, scooped it up and rumbled 88 yards for a first-quarter touchdown.

The Steelers ceded the lead in the second half when rookie corner Justin Layne was beaten deep down the right sideline.

With the preseason in the rear-view mirror, the Steelers will have a couple of days before they’re forced to make 38 cuts to get down to the 53-man minimum by Saturday at 4 p.m.

Steelers

How Have Previous 10-0 Teams Fared?

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The Steelers are 10-0 after Sunday’s victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, extending their best start in team history and accomplishing a feat that’s been done just 17 times in NFL history.

The first 10-0 team was the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went on to win all 14 regular season games and the Super Bowl, a season that still stands alone in NFL history as the lone unblemished campaign.

The 2007 New England Patriots also went on to finish an unbeaten regular season, going 16-0 before losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

What has happened to the other 16 squads that started out with wins in their first 10 games?

All 16 made the postseason and did so as a division winner.

Twelve won an 11th game and kept the winning streak alive, with just four falling to 10-1.

Ten advanced all the way to the Super Bowl, and six have won it.

In 1990 and 2009, there were multiple 10-0 teams, with one eliminating the other in the playoffs. At least the Steelers don’t have to worry about that this year.

Here’s a breakdown of how all the 10-0 teams finished their seasons:

1972 Miami Dolphins
Game 11: 31-10 win over St. Louis Cardinals
Finished regular season 14-0
Won Super Bowl VII

1975 Minnesota Vikings
Game 11: 30-31 loss at Washington Redskins
Finished regular season 12-2
Lost in Divisional Playoffs

1984 Miami Dolphins
Game 11: 28-34 loss at San Diego Chargers
Finished regular season: 14-2
Lost in Super Bowl XIX

1985 Chicago Bears
Game 11: 44-0 win at Dallas Cowboys
Finished regular season: 15-1
Won Super Bowl XX

1990 New York Giants
Game 11: 20-0 win over Detroit Lions
Finished regular season: 13-3
Won Super Bowl XXV

1990 San Francisco 49ers
Game 11: 17-28 loss to Los Angeles Rams
Finished regular season: 14-2
Lost in NFC Championship Game

1991 Washington Redskins
Game 11: 56-17 win over Atlanta Falcons
Finished regular season: 14-2
Won Super Bowl XXVI

1998 Denver Broncos
Game 11: 40-14 win at Kansas City Chiefs
Finished regular season: 14-2
Won Super Bowl XXXIII

2005 Indianapolis Colts
Game 11: 26-18 win at Jacksonville Jaguars
Finished regular season: 14-2
Lost in Divisional Playoff to Pittsburgh Steelers

2007 New England Patriots
Game 11: 31-28 win over Philadelphia Eagles
Finished regular season: 16-0
Lost Super Bowl XLII

2008 Tennessee Titans
Game 11: 24-14 win at Jacksonville Jaguars
Finished regular season: 13-3
Lost in Divisional Playoff

2009 Indianapolis Colts
Game 11: 35-27 win at Houston Texans
Finished regular season: 14-2
Lost Super Bowl XLIV

2009 New Orleans Saints
Game 11: 38-17 win over New England Patriots
Finished regular season: 14-2
Won Super Bowl XLIV

2011 Green Bay Packers
Game 11: 27-15 win at Detroit Lions
Finished regular season: 15-1
Lost in Divisional Playoff

2015 Carolina Panthers
Game 11: 33-14 win at Dallas Cowboys
Finished regular season: 15-1
Lost in Super Bowl 50

2015 New England Patriots
Game 11: 24-30 overtime loss at Denver Broncos
Finished regular season: 12-4
Lost in AFC Championship

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Steelers to Wear Color Rush Uniforms vs. Ravens

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The Steelers will wear their all-black Color Rush uniforms on Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens, the team announced on Monday night.

The team made the decision after getting input from the players and the fanbase. It will be the first time the team has worn the uniforms this season.

“I love them. I really love them,” cornerback Joe Haden said to Steelers.com. “They look sick. And we play well in them. You look good, you feel good, and you play good. I just really love them and am excited we get to wear them.”

“I like those. I think it’s a good change,” added James Conner. “When we have one style of game pants, everyone is so used to seeing us in black and gold at home. When it goes all black, I think it looks solid. It’s like the Dark Knight.”

The Steelers are 5-1 all-time in the uniforms, which were introduced in 2016 in a Christmas Day win over the Baltimore Ravens. This will be the second time they’ve worn the uniform against the Ravens.

The team wore the uniforms twice in 2019, a win over the Miami Dolphins and a loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Compared to the Steelers’ usual uniform, the Color Rush getups swap white, italic uniform numbers for block, gold digits and the white, intermediary stripes in the team’s five-striped sleeve design also swap white for gold.

The team’s usual gold pants with a thick black stripe are exchanged for the inverse, black pants with a gold side stripe. The team keeps its usual all-black socks for a head-to-toe black-and-gold look.

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Steelers Reduce Future Capacity to 2,500 to Comply with Gov. Wolf’s Modified COVID-19 Policy

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The Steelers will reduce the number of fans they can host at Heinz Field in the month of December in order to comply with adjusted COVID-19 mitigation guidelines released by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health on Monday.

The Steelers will host no more than 2,500 fans per game beginning with their Dec. 6 home game against Washington. Thursday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens will not be impacted by the change. The Steelers had been hosting as many 5,500 fans for home games in the months of October and November after playing without fans in September.

With just a 2,500-person capacity, fans in the seating bowl against Washington will be limited to family and friends of players and the organization.

“Our priority remains the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff , gameday workers, and our fans,” team spokesman Burt Lauten said in a statement. “We will adhere to the original protocols for games with fans at Heinz Field and expect approximately 5,550 fans in attendance for Thursday’s game versus the Ravens.”

Wolf did not specifically cite reasons for modifying the limits on event capacity, but explained that the series of changes made to the mitigation rules on Tuesday are in response to growing numbers of positive cases and hospitalizations in the state.

“In December, projections show upwards of 22,000 new COVID cases per day in Pennsylvania, Wolf said. “And we are projected to run out of ICU beds. We must take action to protect our health care system from being compromised.”

The Pitt Panthers, who share Heinz Field with the Steelers, have ended the home portion of their 2020 schedule.

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