New Opponent, Same Story

The QBs changed but the results stayed the same. The Carolina Panthers trotted out Hunter Cantwell and Tony Pike on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, yet still could not find the end zone while dropping a 19-3 decision in their last warmup before the regular season.

Coach John Fox made the decision to rest his starters and make sure everybody is as healthy as possible heading into the regular season. His ploy worked as intended, as the Panthers escaped Heinz Field without any serious injuries.

The Panthers also left without developing any sense of rhythm in their passing game. Hunter Cantwell (6-of-9 for 36 yards) and Tony Pike (10-of-18 for 44 yards) led a passing attack that finished with only 51 net yards. Carolina yielded nearly as many sacks (four) as it picked up first downs through the air (five).

Cantwell and Pike, competing for the No. 3 quarterback position, didn't get much help from their receivers. Rookie David Gettis led the uninspiring group with a modest two catches and 15 yards.

QB Hunter Cantwell and RB Mike Goodson
Jared Wickerham/Getty
The defense, as has been the case all preseason, was much better. Derek Landri sacked Ben Roethlisberger on the game's opening drive for force a three-and-out, setting the tone for the rest of the game.

The Steelers finished with just 273 yards of total offense despite winning time of possession. A big reason for this was Carolina's third-down defense, which allowed Pittsburgh to convert just 2-of-12 opportunities (16 percent).

The special teams handled all the scoring once again, with John Kasay's 51-yard field goal in the fourth quarter accounting for all of Carolina's points. He did, however, miss a kick earlier from that same distance.

The good news for Jeff Rodgers' units was that Armanti Edwards fought his way back into the mix at punt returner, bringing back his lone attempt 17 yards.

With final auditions now over, Carolina has until Saturday to reduce its roster to 53 players. Eight days later, the Panthers' 2010 season gets underway as they help the New York Giants open New Meadowlands Stadium.

Cat Quicks

The Panthers reported three injuries after the game: OG Duke Robinson (knee), LB Jordan Senn (ankle) and TE Jamie Petrowski (head). All three will be further evaluated this week.

What did Panthers fans think about the game? Find out in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and also a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on Twitter.

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