PITTSBURGH - Fozzy Whittaker ran for a 2-yard touchdown, Graham Gano added a short field goal and the Carolina Panthers beat the listless Pittsburgh Steelers 10-0 in the preseason finale Thursday night.
The Panthers (2-2) held the Steelers (1-3) to just 185 total yards.
Both teams sat their star players with just 10 days to go before the regular season begins.
Carolina backup quarterback Derek Anderson led the Panthers to a field goal drive to start the game. Anderson arrived in Pittsburgh overnight after he and his wife welcomed their first child. Whittaker rushed for 91 yards in a game even more vanilla than usual. The teams meet again in Carolina on Sept. 24.
Steelers third-string quarterback Landry Jones started, but did little to assure himself of a roster spot when the rosters are trimmed to 53 players.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spent the night on the sideline with a towel around his shoulders. Carolina's Cam Newton and his dinged-up ribs did likewise. Newton said earlier in the week there's "no doubt" he'll be ready when the Panthers head to Tampa Bay on Sept. 7.
Pittsburgh's first-string defense can't exactly say the same. Coach Mike Tomlin sent all the healthy names atop the depth chart onto the field to start the game, including defensive end Brett Keisel, who re-signed with Pittsburgh last week. Tomlin wanted to see if Keisel could "swim in the deep end of the pool."
While Keisel looked spry for a player who turns 36 in a few weeks, the first unit allowed points for the fourth consecutive week.
Carolina backup Derek Anderson — just hours removed from the birth of his first child with wife Mallory — led a 14-play, 62-yard drive to open the game. The methodical march included a fourth-and-1 conversion in Pittsburgh territory, perhaps early proof coach Ron Rivera plans to keep the swashbuckling approach that helped turn the Panthers around in 2013 and earned him NFL Coach of the Year honors.
Anderson had some help in the only consequential drive by either side with players who will see regular playing time starting Sept. 7. Carolina rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin hauled in a 19-yard pass to get the Panthers going. Benjamin finished with four catches for 56 yards and had little trouble getting open against Pittsburgh's aggressive secondary.
The drive was the highlight of Anderson's night. He completed 8 of 14 passes for 98 yards and left late in the second quarter when he injured his hand trying to corral a snap that sailed over his head. Pittsburgh linebacker Jarvis Jones recovered, one of the few highlights for the Steelers on a night that did little to provide the momentum boost Tomlin was looking for heading into the season.
Steelers running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount — a week removed from being cited on marijuana possession — started the game on the bench but played sparingly in the first half. The team plans to discipline both players, but Tomlin stressed he would not reveal the punishment.
Either way, Bell and Blount will be heavily involved this fall. The circumstances required for Landry Jones to see playing time the rest of 2014 are probably too farfetched to even ponder, but the former Oklahoma star didn't exactly produce a compelling argument for the Steelers to keep three quarterbacks on the active roster behind Roethlisberger and backup Bruce Gradkowski.
Jones was nearly sacked for a safety on his second series of work and did little more than dump the ball off when given time to throw. He completed 14 of 18 passes for 97 yards and never managed to get the Steelers within field-goal range before giving way to rookie Brendon Kay.
The AFC North appears as balanced as perhaps it ever has been. The Steelers' back-to-back 8-8 seasons and the Baltimore Ravens' post-Super Bowl championship slide allowed Cincinnati and Cleveland to narrow the competitive gap.
The Ravens and Steelers may have rebooted through free agency with key offseason acquisitions. The Bengals and Browns used the first round of the draft to bolster their rosters with the additions of cornerback Darqueze Dennard and quarterback Johnny Manziel, respectively.
Here is a look at the AFC North heading into training camp.
Key additions: The Steelers may have strengthened their defense with rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier and free agent safety Mike Mitchell. Both come with reputations as sure tacklers, which is needed on a defense that slipped from ranking second against the run in 2012 to 21st in 2013.
Biggest loss: WR Emmanuel Sanders' departure could hurt if second-year receiver Markus Wheaton and free agent Lance Moore fail to complement Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown.
Biggest camp battle: DT Cam Thomas opted for Pittsburgh during free agency because he knew there was a job open. He is slated to play defensive end but could battle Steve McLendon at nose tackle as well.
Key additions: WR Steve Smith adds swagger to an offense that was up and down in 2013. The veteran will keep the heat off Torrey Smith, who drew double coverage with the loss of Anquan Boldin.
Biggest loss: With OT Michael Oher no longer protecting quarterback Joe Flacco's blind side, the Ravens could be challenged in the passing game, especially if troubled running back Ray Rice can't put the offense in workable third-down situations.
Biggest camp battle: OT Rick Wagner has been penciled in as the starter at right tackle, but Jah Reid and Ryan Jensen are expected to push him during training camp. It's one of the few unsettled positions on a revamped roster.
Key additions: CB Darqueze Dennard, a first-round pick, has the potential to be a shutdown corner. He adds immediate help to an already impressive secondary that ranked fifth in pass defense and netted 20 interceptions last season.
Biggest loss: It was somewhat surprising that the Bengals allowed offensive linemen Anthony Collins and Kyle Cook to find employment elsewhere during free agency. Now they're rebuilding an offensive line to protect an oft-erratic Andy Dalton.
Biggest camp battle: Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson already has promoted second-round pick Jeremy Hill ahead of veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis as the feature RB. No one should be sleeping on the explosive Giovani Bernard.
Key additions: Johnny Manziel and RB Ben Tate are obvious upgrades for an offense that was sluggish in 2013. Manziel's mobility and surprisingly strong arm will bring the offense a different look.
Biggest loss: Donte Whitner might be the answer at strong safety, but T.J. Ward was a proven stopper against the run. With an inconsistent front seven ahead of him, Whitner will be under fire.
Biggest camp battle: QB Brian Hoyer is listed as the starter on the depth chart, but the Browns didn't draft Manziel to boost attendance and hold a clipboard. Hoyer's body of work as a starter is too incomplete to count out Manziel.
RELATED PITTSBURGH STEELERS CONTENT:
- August 27, 2014 -- Roster spots on the line for Steelers in final preseason game
- August 26, 2014 -- Steelers ready to see if the kids can play
- August 26, 2014 -- Preseason star LB So'Oto among Steeler cuts
- August 25, 2014 -- Steelers looking to shore up leaky defense
- August 23, 2014 -- Keisel happy to be back with Steelers
- August 22, 2014 -- Steelers rattled after ugly loss to Eagles
- August 22, 2014 -- 'Get your life in order': Jerome Bettis weighs in on Blount, Bell
- August 20, 2014 -- Steelers' Bell, Blount set to face pot chares
- August 19, 2014 -- Steelers bring back Brett Keisel
- August 19, 2014 -- Steelers offensive line strong early
- August 19, 2014 -- Steelers sign tackle Gilbert to 6-year deal
- August 18, 2014 -- Steelers look to expand no huddle at Philly
- August 17, 2014 -- Rookie LB Shazier shines in debut
- August 16, 2014 -- Starters crisp as Steelers beat Bills 19-16
- August 14, 2014 -- Steelers D wants to emulate rapidly rising Bills
- August 12, 2014 -- Joey Porter settling in as Steelers assistant
- August 11, 2014 -- Undrafted Steelers rookie LB Jones making a splash
- August 10, 2014 -- Steelers try to look at positives in opening loss
- August 8, 2014 -- Running game set for Steelers, murky for Giants
- August 8, 2014 -- Antonio Brown swamped by mail since autograph vow
- August 7, 2014 -- Steelers looking to stop big play barrage in 2014
- August 6, 2014 -- Steelers QB Landry Jones trying to settle in
- August 5, 2014 -- Steelers rookie Tuitt making quick impression
- August 4, 2014 -- Steelers S Mitchell returns after groin injury
- August 3, 2014 -- DeCastro wants to live up to lofty expectations
- August 2, 2014 -- Thomas gets chance to learn from Polamalu
- August 1, 2014 -- Steelers sign K Suisham through 2018 season
- July 31, 2014 -- WR Antonio Brown aims for repeat of 2013
- July 30, 2014 -- Speedy rookie LB Shazier making quick impression
- July 30, 2014 -- Pittsburgh Steelers retire Joe Greene's No. 75
- July 29, 2014 -- Bell looking for more decisive, productive season
- July 28, 2014 -- Steelers LB Spence caps lengthy comeback
- July 27, 2014 -- Wheaton eyeing chance after tough rookie year
- July 26, 2014 -- Roethlisberger OK with choice to wait on new deal
- July 25, 2014 -- Roethlisberger extension will wait until 2015
- July 15, 2014 -- St. Vincent College prepares for Pittsburgh Steelers training camp
- June 27, 2014 -- Article: Pittsburgh Steelers most likeable NFL franchise
- June 20, 2014 -- Hines Ward to marry at Heinz Field this July
- June 19, 2014 -- Steelers LB Jones looking to up sack total in 2014
- June 18, 2014 -- Chuck Noll on cover on this week's 'Sports Illustrated'
- June 18, 2014 -- Steelers looking to expand no huddle
- June 18, 2014 -- Steelers agree to deal with 2nd-round pick Tuitt
- June 17, 2014 -- FINAL FAREWELL: Legendary Steelers coach Chuck Noll laid to rest
- June 17, 2014 -- Healthy Polamalu eager for 2013 encore
- June 15, 2014 -- Steelers Nation reflects on life, legacy of Chuck Noll
- June 14, 2014 -- Noll remembered as humble, passionate man at St. Vincent College
- June 14, 2014 -- Channel 11 Special Report: A tribute to Chuck Noll
- June 14, 2014 -- Legendary Steelers coach Chuck Noll dies at 82
- June 13, 2014 -- Steelers sign 3rd-round draft pick Archer
- June 12, 2014 -- Steelers, Pouncey agree to 5-year, $44M contract extension
- June 11, 2014 -- Driven Moore catching on in Pittsburgh
- June 10, 2014 -- Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 training camp schedule announced
- June 5, 2014 -- Steelers, 1st-round pick Ryan Shazier agree to deal
- June 5, 2014 -- MUST SEE: CHP patient hooks catch of a lifetime with Steelers star
- June 3, 2014 -- Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Dad join together for hilarious video
- May 27, 2014 -- Several big question marks surround Steelers as team opens OTAs
- May 26, 2014 -- Super Bowl in Pittsburgh? Fan base, franchise ‘deserve’ it
- May 21, 2014 -- Ike Taylor says James Harrison, Santonio Holmes want to return to Steelers
- May 19, 2014 -- Steelers, SEA agree to add 3K seats to Heinz Field
- May 8, 2014 -- Steelers take Ohio State LB Shazier with 15th pick
- May 7, 2014 -- Legendary Steelers scout Bill Nunn dead at 89
- May 7, 2014 -- Roethlisberger: 'I think I can play 5-7 more years'
- May 1, 2014 -- Remembering the Lambert, Swann, Stallworth Webster draft class 40 years later
- April 24, 2014 -- Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 regular season schedule released
- April 4, 2014 -- Steelers adopt variable ticket pricing system
- April 2, 2014 -- Steelers agree to 1-year deal with WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
- April 1, 2014 -- Steelers sign former Texans CB Brice McCain
- March 24, 2014 -- Steelers sign LB Arthur Moats
- March 21, 2014 -- Steelers sign ex-Saints WR Lance Moore
- March 20, 2014 -- Steelers won't lose pick for Tomlin's sideline incident
- March 20, 2014 -- Former Steelers WR Cotchery signs with Carolina
- March 18, 2014 -- Could James Harrison return to Pittsburgh?
- March 11, 2014 -- Ex-Panthers safety signs with Steelers; Woodley officially released
- March 10, 2014 -- Former Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall retires at age 26
- March 5, 2014 -- Steelers sign Polamalu, Miller to extensions; Release Foote
- February 11, 2014 -- Joey Porter named assistant defensive coach
- February 6, 2014 -- Former Steelers OL Faneca drops 100 pounds, runs marathon
- February 5, 2014 -- Brett Keisel 'shears da beard' to benefit Children's Hospital
- February 1, 2014 -- Jerome Bettis again passed over for Pro Football HOF
- January 28, 2014 -- Alby Oxenreiter remembers Super Bowl XXX 18 years later
- January 16, 2014 -- Young Steelers fan photobombs Seahawks pride pic at school party
- January 10, 2014 -- Famed Three Rivers grounds man, Pittsburgh sport fanatic ‘Dirt’ DiNardo dies
- January 9, 2014 -- Inmate sues NFL over missed call that cost Steelers playoff berth
2014 PRESEASON: Steelers fall to Panthers 10-0
1 person hospitalized with gunshot wound after home invasion
Man hit, killed after exiting bus, darting across street
Student athletes honor Penn Hills football player killed in car crash
Steelers' Brown takes to social media to apologize for locker room video