Panthers fall to Steelers in preseason finale

The Carolina Panthers kept their starters on the bench in a 19-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday at Heinz Field, but it still took a last-second Jeff Reed field goal to keep the game from going to overtime.

Quarterback Matt Moore played the first three quarters, completing 15-of-27 passes for 164 yards and two interceptions before leaving the game with an apparent lower leg injury. Third stringer Brett Basanez, fighting for a roster spot, completed six-of-11 passes for 106 yards and one touchdown. Moore's injury will be evaluated further, leaving question marks at that position as the team prepares for its opener at San Diego on Sept. 7.

Neither DeAngelo Williams nor Jonathan Stewart played for Carolina, which struggled to get anything going on the ground until late in the game. Decori Birmingham rushed nine times for 38 yards to lead the cause, while LaBrandon Toefield, possibly fighting for a final roster spot, rushed 13 times for just 18 yards.

The bright spot for Carolina was once again kicker John Kasay, who opened the scoring with a 32-yard field goal in the first quarter. Pittsburgh answered with a six-yard Carey Davis touchdown run and two Jeff Reed field goals to take a 13-6 lead into the locker room. The teams traded field goals until Basanez found Chris Hannon from 29 yards out with 1:54 remaining to tie the game. The Steelers drove methodically down field in the last two minutes to set up Reed for his second game-winning kick in less than a week.

Carolina now sets its sights squarely on San Diego, hoping to ground the Chargers in their home stadium. The Panthers will open on the road for the second straight year under John Fox after beginning the season at home during his first five seasons.

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