PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Carolina Panthers proved something during
a long night that featured almost no starters and plenty of
not-so-good football: Their junior varsity is better than that of
the Pittsburgh Steelers.
John Kasay kicked his fifth field goal on the final play of the
game, a 29-yarder that finished an unbeaten Carolina preseason and
a winless one for Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh as the Panthers
won 15-13 Thursday night.
Cedric Humes scored the game's only touchdown with less than
four minutes to play to give the Steelers their only lead on a
night they rested nearly all of their regulars. But the Panthers
drove from their 20 in the final two minutes to win it.
"I thought we played well, we just couldn't get into the end
zone," said backup quarterback Brett Basanez, who led the decisive
drive. "We just kept getting 3s, getting 3s. That's all about the
defense -- any time you don't score a touchdown and come away with a
win, it's all on them. The biggest thing is us winning this game
and going 4-0 in the preseason."
The key play was a roughing-the-passer penalty on safety Tyrone
Carter. It kept the decisive drive alive after Basanez had thrown
incomplete on fourth-and-14 from the Carolina 32. Given a reprieve,
Basanez later hit Justin McCullum for 20 yards to the Pittsburgh 11
to give Kasay the chance to win it.
"It was outstanding the way Basanez took them down the field,"
said star receiver Steve Smith, who didn't play.
Omar Jacobs, the Steelers' No. 4 quarterback, had been
ineffective before finding Walter Young on a 46-yard completion to
set up the touchdown with 3:41 remaining. Humes, a fourth-team
running back who probably won't make the roster, scored on the next
play to finish a 76-yard, four-play drive in a game that featured
little offense otherwise.
"I think I had a good outing," said Jacobs, who was 13-of-19
for 179 yards. "I was just hoping that would be the winning
touchdown. At least I had a chance to showcase my talent."
Almost none of the Steelers' top players did that as coach Bill
Cowher rested his regulars with the Sept. 7 season opener against
Miami only a week away. The offensive line starters played a few
downs, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and running back Willie
Parker never left the sideline and the defense opened the game with
backups at every position.
Cowher said beforehand he didn't think it mattered if the Super
Bowl champion Steelers went winless in the preseason for only the
second time since 1965, and they did. Even some of the backups
didn't play much: Steelers backup QB Charlie Batch was pulled after
throwing four passes and Shane Boyd, who isn't likely to make the
team, threw three.
"But it doesn't mean anything," reserve defensive end Rian
Wallace said. "It's meaningless, but a lot of guys got a chance to
play in case they're needed if a regular goes down."
That didn't mean Cowher took the night off, as he could be seen
screaming at backup lineman Chris Kemoeatu after he was called for
a face mask penalty while making a tackle on a Carolina fumble
With so few regulars on the field, the play was sloppy and
uneven, with six fumbles, an interception, 188 yards of penalties
and numerous execution errors. Only the field goal kickers were
perfect. Kasay hit from 54, 40, 38, 35 and 29 yards in that order,
and Pittsburgh's Jeff Reed was good from 40 and 27 yards in the
Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme played one series, completed
two passes for 6 yards, then was sacked on third down and never
returned. He gave way to Stefan LeFors, who did nearly as much for
the Steelers' offense as his own despite going 6-of-8 for 86 yards.
LeFors fumbled twice, with Ricardo Colclough recovering each time,
but the Steelers converted the turnovers into only a field goal.
The Steelers did give backup running back Duce Staley lots of
carries -- 19 for 46 yards in by far his most extensive playing time
of the preseason. He was still carrying midway through the fourth
quarter. Staley was expected to reprise the retired Jerome Bettis'
role as a short-yaradge and situational back, but he did not have a
good training camp.
The top receivers for both teams never got off the bench the
entire preseason, with Smith (hamstring and ingrown toenail) and
Pittsburgh's Hines Ward (hamstring) sitting out again.
"It really doesn't matter if you don't play a lot," Smith
said. "You'll be rusty after the preseason anyway because you're
not in enough to get into a rhythm."
The Steelers last went 0-4 in the preseason in 1987. Before
that, they were 0-5 in 1965. ... The Panthers also went 4-0 in 2003
and 2004. ... The teams meet again during the season, Dec. 17 in
Charlotte. ... Roethlisberger played only four series in three
games. ... The Panthers open Sept. 10 at home against Atlanta.