Steelers won't see much of Panthers starters Print
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Wednesday, 27 August 2008 22:29
NFL Headline News

 PITTSBURGH (AP) -Again, it's only the preseason, when the results and statistics don't count, the starters almost never play past halftime, the tailgating isn't as spirited as during the regular season and many season ticket holders pass off their seats to friends and relatives.
Nothing matters, except the injuries that can disrupt a team's season or end a player's season before it has begun for real.
Despite all those asterisks, what's going on with the Carolina Panthers must make their fans wonder if this is a team that's ready to make the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
The Pittsburgh Steelers won't see much of the Panthers players who created something of a stir by beating the Washington Redskins 47-3 on Saturday, an unusually one-sided score for an exhibition game. The Panthers and Steelers close out their preseasons Thursday night at Heinz Field.
``Certainly every game is not going to be like that,'' quarterback Jake Delhomme said.
With teams playing 70-plus players in exhibition games, one team normally doesn't have such an appreciable edge in talent that it can dominate a game from the first quarter to the fourth the way the Panthers did.
Still, in their last two games, the Panthers' starters have outscored their opponents 58-3. The Steelers certainly noticed that.
``They are coming off a high performance,'' Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. ``They got after the Redskins pretty good in all three phases. So it's a big challenge for us.''
Delhomme, back after having reconstructive elbow surgery last year, figures to play only a series or two. The Steelers' starters figure to go about a quarter, not much time to see the Carolina pass rush that had five sacks against the Redskins.
Pittsburgh's starting defense will play only minimally against running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, each of whom had gained more than 100 yards against Washington by early in the second half.
``I think as a team we showcased what we can do throughout the whole season,'' Stewart said.
With the regular season starting in little more than a week, neither team wants any injuries, one reason the starters won't go very long. The Steelers do plan to get Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu on the field for a few plays after a hamstring injury sidelined him for their first three exhibition games.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will go a quarter or less, which means a lot of snaps for new backup Byron Leftwich, who is replacing the injured Charlie Batch (broken collarbone), and rookie Dennis Dixon.
``Every day is important for him because there have been very few days and opportunities,'' Tomlin said of Leftwich, who didn't sign until Aug. 10.
There should be plenty of carries for rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall, who ran for 79 yards on 15 attempts but lost two fumbles as the Steelers used four field goals to beat Minnesota 12-10 on Saturday. So Mendenhall would be conscious of protecting the ball, he was forced to carry a ball with him all week during meetings.
``It's something I have to do,'' said Mendenhall, who wasn't all that thrilled by the idea.
Tomlin's take on having Mendenhall tote a ball wherever he went at the team's practice facility?
``I just want him to hold onto the football,'' Tomlin said.
Carolina, which had its only scheduled full practice of the week pushed onto a stadium concourse by heavy rains Tuesday, will be without wide receiver Jason Carter, who is out for the season after injuring a knee against Washington. Steelers inside linebacker Larry Foote (knee) will sit out.
Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith will play for the last time until he serves a two-game suspension for the training camp fight that left cornerback Ken Lucas with a broken nose.
``Steve being out the first couple of games and with our numbers being depleted, it's a good thing that our running backs are running as well as they are right now,'' wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad said.

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