PITTSBURGH – At least it was quick and relatively painless.
After playing a nearly four-hour game the previous week, a 31-21 preseason loss at Philadelphia, the Steelers closed out their exhibition schedule Thursday night at Heinz Field against the Carolina Panthers.
With both teams giving their backups extensive playing time, the Panthers edged the Steelers, 10-0, in a game that was as exciting as a vanilla milkshake and took less than three hours to complete.
Second-year quarterback Landry Jones, hoping to earn a spot as the Steelers’ No. 3 quarterback, started but failed to lead Pittsburgh to a score in six possessions. A fourth-round draft pick in 2013 out of Oklahoma, Jones completed 14 of 18 passes for just 97 yards.
With starter Ben Roethlisberger and primary backup Bruce Gradkowski sitting this one out, Jones was replaced by undrafted rookie Brendon Kay midway through the third quarter.
Kay, who had not played in the Steelers’ first three preseason games, completed 5 of 10 passes for 32 yards.
With starting quarterback Cam Newton sitting out with fractured ribs, Carolina put together a 14-play, 62-yard drive on its opening possession. The Panthers converted a fouth-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 37-yard line.
But the drive stalled at Steelers’ 15 when backup quarterback Derek Anderson’s pass to rookie Kelvin Benjamin, with Ike Taylor in coverage, fell incomplete and the Panthers settled for a 33-yard Graham Gano field goal and a 3-0 lead.
The Steelers attempted to convert a fourth-and-1 on their ensuing possession, but running back LeGarrette Blount was stuffed for no gain at the Carolina 49.
The Steelers had a big opportunity early in the second quarter when the Panthers, who were driving, had a miscue – the snap from center sailing over Anderson’s head. Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones, one of the few starters still in the game at that point, beat Anderson to the loose ball, making the recovery.
Jones rolled over and got to his feet before being tackled by his dreadlocks by offensive lineman Fernando Velasco, who signed with Carolina in the offseason as a free agent after spending 2013 with the Steelers. Velasco was penalized for horsecollar tackle, though Jones was ruled down by contact where he had recovered the fumble.
Despite taking over at the Carolina 46, the Steelers were unable to convert the takeaway into points and trailed 3-0 at the half.
The Panthers extended their lead to 10-0 on their first possession of the second half.
Following a Brad Wing punt that pinned the Panthers back at their own 10, Carolina drove to the Pittsburgh 2, with the big play being a 53-yard pass to Philly Brown, who had gotten behind cornerback Antwon Blake on a double move. Fozzy Whitaker scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to cap the drive.
Wing punted nine times for an average of 40.1 yards with three kicks downed inside the 20.
Odds and end zones
Defensive end Brett Keisel, re-signed last week, started at right defensive end in place of Cameron Heyward, who sat out with an ankle injury. … Steelers rookie receiver Martavis Bryant left in the first quarter with a right shoulder injury and did not return to the game. Cornerback Brice McCain suffered a groin injury and did not return. Safety Mike Mitchell had a right leg injury. … Blake led the Steelers with eight tackles. … Anderson injured his hand attempting to recover the muffed snap and did not return. … Carolina had six sacks.