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Pittsburgh 21, Carolina 17

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Carolina Panthers were in a
celebratory mood after losing, pleased with the return of Stephen
Davis and an efficient series from their starters.

The Pittsburgh Steelers weren't nearly as pleased, unsatisfied
after Thursday night's 21-17 preseason victory over the Panthers
because the first-team offense continued to struggle.

But Ben Roethlisberger, who was once again out of sync and
failed to lead the first-team offense to a single touchdown this
preseason, was adamant the Steelers will get it worked out.

"I've told you 100 times, I'm not concerned yet. I'll let you
know when I am and I don't think that is going to happen," he said
after going 2-of-6 for 24 yards in just over one quarter of play.

"We haven't run a lot of plays that fit me, like getting out of
the pocket."

Nothing seemed to fit Roethlisberger against the Panthers, who
sacked him once and constantly pressured him. He led the Steelers
to just one first down, and had no rhythm with his receivers --
either throwing short of them, or over their heads on his attempts.

That left it up to Charlie Batch, who struggled for most of his
three quarters before finally giving the Steelers a spark.

Batch threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Sean Morey with 1:35 to
play, scrambling out of pressure on fourth-and-6 to complete the
play.

"Charlie has a good presence on the field," Pittsburgh coach
Bill Cowher said. "I like his demeanor."

Batch's late touchdown spoiled Davis' first game in 10 months.

In his long-awaited debut, he carried the ball five times for 17
yards in a very brief appearance designed only to test his
surgically repaired right knee.

He received a standing ovation after his first carry, a 4-yard
surge up the middle. He later moved the Panthers to the Pittsburgh
3 on an 8-yard run.

"I was kind of anxious," Davis said. "Everything felt real
good, I felt no pain. It was great to be back out there. It's been
a long road."

Carolina gave him two chances to score -- his first run was for
no gain, the second moved the Panthers to the 1 -- before Jake
Delhomme threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl.

"I was just trying to get myself into the end zone," he said.
"I wanted it, but I'll take my steps as they come."

So will the Panthers, who went into the game only wanting to see
the first-team offense score and give Davis one quick look. Both
accomplished, the starters were pulled after just one series.

"It was good to have Stephen Davis back in there," Delhomme
said. "He hit some holes well and we were able to punch it in for
a score. That was the big thing, a nice drive on the first drive
and we get a touchdown."

The Steelers played their first team for the entire first
quarter, and Cowher blamed part of the offense's struggles to a
sloppy line.

"I think their defensive line played a lot harder than our
offensive line did," Cowher said. "I don't think (Ben) had a
whole lot of time in that game, and at times when he did, he wasn't
able to connect."

In fairness to Roethlisberger, the Steelers were down three
running backs against the Panthers. Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis
are both out with injuries, leaving second-year player Willie
Parker as the projected opening-day starter. Not wanting to risk
injury to Parker, the Steelers sat him, too.

So Verron Hayes and Noah Herron had to carry the load for
Pittsburgh, and Herron was decent against Carolina's second- and
third-string defense.

He finished with 65 yards on 22 carries and scored Pittsburgh's
only touchdown, a 1-yard run to cap a drive led by Batch that tied
the score 7-7 midway through the second quarter.

Batch finished 16-of-29 for 182 yards, one touchdown and one
interception.

Notes:@ Pittsburgh receiver Lee Mays left with a hamstring
injury and safety Chris Hope was held out with a shoulder injury.
... Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers missed his second
consecutive game while nursing a sore foot. ... Panthers receiver
Drew Carter had seven catches for 107 yards. ... Pittsburgh's Jeff
Reed made two field goals, from 25 and 23 yards. ... Mike Logan had
six tackles and a sack for the Steelers. "Mike may make a couple
of mistakes, but somewhere along the line you are going to feel his
presence on the field," Cowher said.