While Carolina Coach John Fox kept every one of his opening-day starters on the bench from start to finish, Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin watched his opening-day quarterback, Byron Leftwich, hobble off the field with a sprained left knee after throwing some of his best passes of the preseason. MRI results have conformied the preliminary prognosis.
Backup tackle Jonathan Scott – who was pushed back before leg-whipping Leftwich to cause the injury – later left the game with an ankle injury that wasn't deemed serious.
The touchdown throw was Dixon's only pass of his only series. He was replaced for the remainder of the contest by Charlie Batch, who completed three of four passes for 10 yards.
Aside from the injury to Leftwich, the fourth preseason game was about the bottom of the roster, and here's how it shook out last night:
* Sanders redeemed himself for a poor performance Sunday by playing his best game of the preseason.
On the 23-yard touchdown pass from Dixon, Sanders curled one way to catch the pass near the Carolina 5-yard line, and then cut back the other way to run between two Panthers into the end zone. Sanders also dove to make a 25-yard catch on a Leftwich down-and-out that Leftwich gunned from the opposite hash mark.
Sanders only played the first half and caught three passes for 66 yards. He also returned punts for 13, 7, and 13 yards.
* Joining Sanders on Redemption Thursday night was second-year cornerback Keenan Lewis, who rebounded last night as the second-team cornerback behind William Gay. Lewis closed quickly and confidently to make the tackle on the first pass his way. He later smothered his receiver and nearly intercepted a deep pass. Lewis played two quarters at left cornerback without getting beat and downed a punt at the Carolina 3 as a backup gunner.
* The battle for the final two cornerback spots might be the fiercest on the team, and rookie Crezdon Butler appeared to lock up one of those jobs with an impressive showing last night. He played most of the game while Lewis, Anthony Madison and Joe Burnett alternated on the opposite side.
* Patrick Bailey also saw substantial time in his bid to stick with a team that drafted three rookie linebackers. Bailey played opposite Jason Worilds for most of the game and stopped a play in the backfield to set up Jeff Reed's third field goal. Bailey played inside next to Stevenson Sylvester in the fourth quarter and called the defenses in the huddle.
* Sylvester, the rookie inside backer, had another strong game with six tackles, including a sack. He finished as the Steelers' preseason tackles leader with 21. Sylvester was also one of the top inside coverage men on kicks.
* If Sylvester wasn't first downfield on punts, long-snapper Matt Stewart was. Stewart and Greg Warren alternated halves last night and Stewart appears to have passed the veteran.
* Jonathan Dwyer ran well in his bid to grab one of those last roster spots. His 13-yard touchdown run was called back because of a hold on wide receiver Brandon London, but Dwyer finished the game with 86 yards on 20 carries. He's the Steelers' preseason rushing champ with 183 yards (4.7 ypc.). Dwyer's in a roster battle with fullback Frank Summers, who saw his most extensive action of the preseason and did his best job of lead blocking yet.
* Another player in the mix for the 53rd spot, second-year guard Kraig Urbik, didn't play as well as in the two previous games. Urbik was called for holding on a run near the goal line. He also was beaten inside on a Panthers' tackle for loss.
Tomlin will make his decisions on these players by Saturday at 6 p.m., when the Steelers cut down to 53 players.