Preseason Week 4 Analysis: Squeaking by the Panthers

It’s been practically unheard of for the Steelers to succeed in the preseason in recent years, yet with the team’s 17-16 win over the Panthers, Pittsburgh is 3-1 in the first four meaningless games of the year.

Once again, things here will be relatively short because none of the starters made an appearance, but there are still good and bad parts of the game to examine.

The Good

Chris Rainey

The team drafted him for his return skills, and so far he hasn’t disappointed. He only ran for a dismal -1 yards, but he handled both kickoff and punt returns, racking up a pair of 20+ yard returns on the day. He even had some longer returns that got called back, making him look every bit the explosive back he was purported to be. The Steelers haven’t been explosive in the return game since Santonio Holmes smoked his way out of town, so I am thoroughly excited to see what Rainey can do on the field. He’ll be an asset as a third down back, but I’m hoping that Jonathan Dwyer or Baron Batch can be effective enough that the team can save him for return situations. Emmanuel Sanders stands to be his only relative competition, and he may find himself playing a large role in the passing attack early on as Wallace acclimates. That leaves Rainey as the main man here, and if he keeps performing the way he did on Thursday, the team should be quite effective on special teams.

The Bad

Third down efficiency

It may have only been the third string offense working at times, but even the second team struggled when it came time to convert on third downs. The Steelers were only 5-16 for the game when trying for the first, and considering that this is indicative of a struggling offensive line, it’s not a good sign. The line showed a bit of an improvement, as the backups held steady and allowed two sacks, but they still weren’t stellar while pass blocking. Ben erases many of the offenses woes on third down, simply because of how difficult he is bring down and how creative he can be on the run, but it’s undeniable that the offense continues to struggle in this situation.

We are less than a week away from the Denver game, and I couldn’t be more ready. It’s a little disturbing that James Harrison recently said he was unsure if he would be ready for the game or not, but that doesn’t mean I’m not anxious for the rest of the defense to try and get a little payback for the playoffs last year. In short, bring on Sunday night!

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