F. Dale Lolley Column
Depth a concern for Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) looks out on the field from the sidelines during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
Carolina Panthers' Greg Hardy (76) rips off the helmet of Pittsburgh Steelers' Jonathan Dwyer (27) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Carolina Panthers' Ted Ginn (19) reaches in vain for a catch as Pittsburgh Steelers' Cortez Allen (28) defends during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
The best thing you can say about Thursday night’s preseason finale at Carolina for the Steelers is that it’s over.
Playing in a half-full stadium, the Steelers and Panthers sent many of their backups into action, keeping their stars safely on the bench where they could not suffer an injury that would jeopardize their availability for the start of the regular season next week.
For the Steelers, that meant the only time Ben Roethlisberger walked onto the field was for the coin toss. And he did that wearing a pair of tennis shoes.
But for a number of other players, Thursday night’s preseason finale was the biggest game of their lives as they battled for the precious few final roster spots.
The Steelers completed the preseason with a losing record for the first time since 2006. In fact, it was just their second winless preseason since 2003.
But does that matter?
In the grand scheme of things, not really.
The Steelers had a losing record in this preseason because in the past two years, they have depleted the depth at many positions. They also were breaking in new second- and third-string quarterbacks.
Depth and experienced backup quarterbacks win a lot of preseason games, but they don’t necessarily equate to winning in the regular season.
You can win without quality depth, but you’d better be very fortunate during the regular season.
That will be Pittsburgh’s goal this season. Because of the number of veterans the Steelers have let go or seen leave in the past two years, the Steelers have had a number of former backups move into the starting lineup.
Cortez Allen, Steve McLendon, Emmanuel Sanders and others being counted on to step into increased roles looked solid in this preseason.
That’s not the problem.
The Steelers’ starting lineup should be as good as that of any team. It looks like a group capable of winning 10 or 11 games with some right breaks.
But NFL teams seldom make it through a season unaffected by injuries. And the Steelers are painfully thin on their offensive line, at tight end and cornerback.
Looking around the NFL, there doesn’t look to be any help available at those positions.
But the Steelers will get some help – at least at tight end – soon.
Tight end Heath Miller will be activated off the PUP list in the next 24 hours as the team cuts its roster to 53 players.
That does not, however, mean that Miller will be ready to play Sept. 8 against Tennessee as he continues his recovery from a torn ACL. It just means the Steelers don’t want him to start the season on the PUP list, something that would cost him at least half the season.
Until they get their leading receiver and MVP from 2012 back, the offense will have to try to make do.
And stay healthy.
That was the biggest thing you could take away from the Steelers’ 2013 preseason. At least they stayed relatively healthy.
F. Dale Lolley can be reached at email@example.com.