The Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers went head-to-head in Week 4 of the NFL Preseason in Charlotte, NC Thursday night, and both teams were displaying nothing but backups for their respective teams in this exhibition game. Nonetheless, a game had to be played, and the Panthers won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff.
After a penalty on the kickoff against Carolina, the defense started the night on the Carolina 10-yard line. After a lengthy Carolina drive, the Steelers’ defense stood tall and Ulysees Gilbert III blocked a 48-yard field goal to give the Steelers their first possession of the game.
Taking over on the 38-yard line, the Steelers went three and out on their first drive. After a 3 yard gain from Benny Snell Jr. on first down, Josh Dobbs’ inconsistent play continued when he threw a nearly intercepted ball behind James Washington before bobbling the shotgun snap from B.J. Finney. Escaping the pocket, Dobbs was brought down from behind for the sack which forced the punt team onto the field. Jordan Berry connected on a 54-yard punt to the Carolina 10-yard line. a ten yard return set the Panthers up on their own 20.
To start the next drive, the Steelers gave up a 54-yard catch and run from Will Grier to DeAndrew White on the very first play. After a near sack on third down by Tyson Alualu, the Panthers were set up first and goal on the 4-yard line. Two plays later, Jayrone Elliot stripped the football from the former West Virginia Mountaineer Grier and returned the fumble 91 yards for a Steelers touchdown!
Matthew right add the extra point to give the Steelers a 7-0 lead.
To start the second quarter, the Panthers continued to move the ball with ease against the Steelers’ backup defense. In fact, at the start of the second frame the Panthers had racked up over 170 yards to the Steelers’ 3.
Although a Sutton Smith and Isaiah Buggs sack stalled the Panthers’ drive, it still resulted in a 59-yard field goal for Carolina, making the score 7-3.
The remainder of the second quarter was spent both teams punting the ball back to the other with no change in score. However, when Mason Rudolph took over for Joshua Dobbs, he was able to drive the Steelers into field goal range and set up Matthew Wright for a 47-yard field goal. But the kick sailed wide right.
Will Grier took advantage of the good field position, and wasted little time, throwing a beautiful touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson. The extra point made the score 10-7 with 1:10 left in the half.
With three timeouts, Mason Rudolph wasted no time getting the Steelers near field goal range when he hit Johnny Holton for 40 yards. Holton made a move to the inside after catching the pass, and slipped, or else he could have walked into the endzone. The drive stalled and Wright was called on for a 49-yard kick, which was good. The kick made the score 10-10.
After a questionable throw by Grier resulted in a Cameron Sutton interception, the next play Rudoph hit Johnny Holton for the go-ahead touchdown with just 9 seconds left in the half.
Wright missed the extra point, making the score 16-10 heading into halftime.
The second half of a fourth NFL preseason game can be difficult to watch. There are usually more sacks than touchdowns, and Steelers’ fourth string quarterback Devlin Hodges found this out the hard way after being hit early and often throughout the third quarter.
It was a dull quarter of play until 4:30 left in the frame when Marcellus Branch came down with the Steelers’ second interception of the game, giving Hodges his best field position of the night. But the offense failed to turn the turnover into points, and before you knew it the third quarter came to an end with the same score as it started, 16-10 Steelers.
The fourth quarter was more of the same for both teams until the Panthers were able to turn a roughing the passer penalty into a touchdown, putting them up 17-16 with 8:30 left in regulation.
A Hodges interception, which was dropped out of the hands of Zach Gentry, turned into yet another Panthers’ touchdown, this time a nifty touchdown pass to make the score 23-16, but a two-point conversion put the total 25-16 with 4:32 left in the fourth quarter.
Devlin Hodges wasn’t about to go down without a fight, and was able to put together a nice drive inside the two-minute warning to get the Steelers into field goal position, and a field goal is all they were able to get out of the drive as Matthew Wright made the score 25-19 with less than a minute remaining in the game.
The score would hold, and give the Steelers their first preseason loss of the season, making their record 3-1 for the four-game exhibition period. Now the fans can get excited for the regular season when the Steelers travel to the New England Patriots to open the 2019 regular season.