2017 Preseason Game #4
Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) at. Carolina Panthers (2-1)
Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017 – 7:30 p.m. ET Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina.
Television: KDKA/NFL Network (Bob Pompeani, Charlie Batch, Missi Matthews)
Radio: Steelers Radio Network/102.5 WDVE-FM (Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin, Craig Wolfley)
All-Time Preseason Series: Steelers lead 10-8
Last Preseason Meeting: 2016 (Pittsburgh) – Steelers 6, Panthers 18
For the 15th year in a row the Steelers and Panthers will close out the preseason against each other. It has become a preseason tradition for the two franchises. Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and the Rooney’s have a very close relationship.
“Our ownership has a great working relationship,” said Coach Tomlin. “We always sit beside those guys at owner’s meetings. You know it’s just one of those very good relationships that’s proven to be an awesome working one, particularly from a fourth preseason game standpoint and my experience with Coach (Ron) Rivera. Like myself, he’s a fundamentalist and we have some good fundamental challenges in this last game and it creates an environment for those that are ready to show their football capabilities. We expect it to be a tough, fundamental game like it always is. It will be a great platform for men to display what they’re capable of.”
On display tonight will be the Steelers stable of running backs, wide receiver, and with the addition of Joe Haden a suddenly very crowded cornerback position.
Who can tote the rock?
James Conner, Roosevelt Nix, and Le’Veon Bell are locks but the rest remains cloudy. Fitzgerald Toussaint, Knile Davis, Trey Williams, and Terrell Watson are all vying for the last spot. Davis was brought in as a free agent to spark a kick return team that has been unimpressive for several seasons. With that said Davis has only averaged 18.2 yards per return with a long of 21 yards.
Watson or “Nightmare” as Coach Tomlin calls him has made a case for himself to make it as the third running back. Strong practices paired with a punishing brand have opened the opportunity for Watson to make the team.
“Every time I go out there, I’m hungry,” Watson said. “I want to make a statement and play my game when my number is called.”
Williams was once an afterthought and then he returned a punt 64-yards against the Falcons to start a come from behind win led by Bart Houston. The opportunities in the backfield haven’t came as he only has 1 rushing attempt, but someone to replace Antonio Brown on punt returns would surely be valuable.
Can you catch on?
The wide receiver position was once thought to be the position that would cause Mike Tomlin the most trouble on cut down day. It still won’t be as easy, but things have became more clear as we’ve went ‘through the process’. Brown, along with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Martavis Bryant, and Eli Rogers are locks. That leaves two spots for veterans Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, Sammie Coates, Demarcus Ayers, and Cobi Hamilton.
Heyward-Bey already had a leg up because of his special teams contributions and he has continued to be a factor throughout the preseason. Hunter was a phenom in shorts, but has fizzled since the hitting started. Ayers will make his debut tonight and without a ‘splash’ play he could be headed for the practice squad. With Coates appearing to regain his game physically and mentally it should put him on the inside track to stay on the team. He has hauled in 4 passes in the first three games.
Can anyone play Cornerback?
Yesterday Ross Cockrell officially lost his starting position. Haden will come in and immediately start at the left Cornerback position. Artie Burns will move back to his natural right corner spot and someone will be released as a result.
I think it’s safe to say that someone in the group of William Gay, Coty Sensabaugh, and Cockrell will lose their roster spot. Had this move happened in March then Gay probably would’ve been the odd man out a long time ago, but with the season set to start in ten days he may make the team by default. Rookie Cam Sutton was a third round pick and is locked into one of the roster spots. It all will come down to whether the Steelers want to keep six corners or five. Mike Hilton should latch onto the last corner spot regardless if they keep 5 or 6 barring a terrible game tonight.