The Carolina Panthers and the Pittsburgh Steelers are two teams that have seen their expectations diminish during the preseason. The good news is that it’s just the preseason. The even better news is that the preseason is over after this week. But the bad news for these teams isn’t limited to bad play during the preseason.
Cam Newton suffered a hairline fracture in his ribs in the Panthers’ last game. He is still expected to start the season opener, but it is the kind of injury that can linger throughout the year. The Steelers had their top two running backs, Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, get charged with possession of marijuana. It’s not clear yet if or how long the two players will be suspended.
Newton’s rib injury is the worst part of the Panthers’ preseason, but their play on the field hasn’t been much better. Coach Ron Rivera was even planning on having Newton play in this game before the news of the rib injury came out. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the rest of the first team offense get some reps in this game, which is something that most teams won’t be doing this week.
The Panthers’ offensive line is the main thing to watch. The starting unit has left a lot to be desired so far in the preseason. It is a group that had a lot of questions coming into training camp, and it appears that many of those questions will remain unanswered heading into the regular season.
I wouldn’t expect to see any of the first team Steelers play in this game. The last thing Pittsburgh would need is for a key player to get hurt because they were trying to get more rhythm before the regular season. This game will be used to decide the final roster spots on the team.
There aren’t a lot of storylines to watch for, so if you watch this game from start to finish, then you are either a die-hard fan, or your remote broke and you can’t get off the couch.