Steelers vs. Panthers: 5 things to watch in preseason finale

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The last preseason game widens the focus from the team's perspective. These players and positions, though, are still under the microscope.

1. How well Landry Jones plays with extended time

There's something to be said about a player getting several consecutive series of playing time to properly assess his ability. Steelers rookie quarterback Landry Jones has looked decent and has looked poor at different times in three preseason games. He looks to get a more extensive look Thursday against Carolina. Can he string together multiple positive series?

2. Special teams

Easily the weakest unit this preseason, many roster spots are likely to be determined based on special teams performances Thursday. Players like Alan Baxter, Brian Rolle and Terry Hawthorne can help or hurt their stock tonight. Plus, with the amount of talented younger players the Steelers have, other teams are going to be looking at them as well.

3. Defensive line

Alameda Ta'amu and Loni Fangupo are looking to break through a tough defensive line battle, and they may need to keep up with their competitors to stick around beyond Saturday's cuts. These are also two prospects other teams may take a look at, should they find themselves on the outside Saturday.

4. Justin Brown and Derek Moye

In a competitive battle for the fifth wide receiver spot, likely vacated by Plaxico Burress, Brown, the team's sixth-round pick and Moye have to be considered fairly close right now. It will be interesting to see which will get more opportunities; Jones has a year of experience with Brown from their college days at Oklahoma, but Moye has gotten plenty of looks from Jones this preseason.

5. Participation of role players

The Steelers played third round pick Sean Spence for a while in last year's preseason finale, and he ended up with a torn knee and lengthly rehab process (Spence is on the regular season PUP list now). Not that he shouldn't have been playing, but with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin pressing a physical training camp and preseason, how much work will he give the Steelers' established roster players? Maybe not the starters, but what about the primary back-ups?

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