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Steelers not so slick in exhibition finale



Published: Fri, September 1, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Bill Cowher said he will announce his roster cuts by Saturday.

By TOM WILLIAMS

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

PITTSBURGH -- Lorne Michaels, meet Bill Cowher.

If Thursday's exhibition finale was a dress rehearsal for next Thursday's NFL season opener on NBC, the "Saturday Night Live" executive producer could consider the Steelers' uninspired offense among the network's "Not Ready for Prime Time Players."

To describe the Steelers' production in the first three quarters of Thursday's 15-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers as anything more complimentary than sloppy would be generous.

Due to be dynamic

To be fair, minus quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Hines Ward, running back Willie Parker and right tackle Max Starks, the Steelers weren't exactly trying. The offense should be a lot more dynamic Thursday at 8:30 p.m. when the Steelers host the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field.

"We're playing in seven days," said Cowher of not playing many of his starters on both sides of the ball. "These guys feel pretty good about themselves right now."

Five field goals by John Kasay, including a 29-yarder as time expired, produced all of the Panthers' points.

"The turnovers in the red zone were disappointing," said Cowher after the Steelers lost their fourth straight exhibition game. "But the preseason is over -- everyone is 0-0."

High-priced running back Duce Staley, whose future will be decided soon, handled the ball the most in the first half as the Steelers alternated quarterbacks Charlie Batch, Shane Boyd and Omar Jacobs.

Staley, who played into the fourth quarter, rushed 19 times for 46 yards.

Made progress

"Each game, I thought I made progress and got better," Staley said. "Whatever is available, I am up for the challenge."

Cowher said he will announce his roster cuts by Saturday.

"You will have answers within 48 hours, not just about Duce but the rest of the team," Cowher said.

Boyd and Jacobs are vying to be named to practice squad third-stringer and Jacobs has the edge after completing 13 of 19 passes for 179 yards.

His big moment came late in the fourth quarter when he hit wide receiver Walter Young with a 46-yard reception to the 4. Running back Cedric Humes scored on the next play and Jeff Reed's extra-point put the Steelers ahead, 13-12.

In the first half, Boyd and Jacobs led scoring drives that ended in field goals by Reed (40 and 27 yards).

"For the most part, I think we're doing OK," said Batch after completing one of four tosses for 15 yards.

"Besides the one interception, it felt pretty good," said Batch who will back up Roethlisberger. "I threw it short. [Wide receiver] Santonio [Holmes] ran a good route, but I pushed [the ball] too far inside."

About Carolina

It's not as if the Panthers had their engines on full speed as quarterback Jake Delhomme played one series, completing both of his passes for 6 yards.

Delhomme's backup, Chris Weinke, was idle as Stefan LeFors and Brett Basanez dueled to be the Panthers' third-string quarterback. Basanez won this round, engineering three scoring drives to one for LeFors.

Late in the first half, Kasay kicked a 54-yard field goal to reduce the Steelers' lead to 6-3. Kasay kicked field goals of 40 and 38 yards on the Panthers' first two series of the second half.

He kicked another in the fourth quarter after Jermaine Hardy returned a fumble 56 yards.

williams@vindy.com




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