Penalties wipe out two long TD returns by Rainey
• Steelers rookie linebacker Sean Spence sustained a serious left knee injury late in the third quarter. Spence, a third-round draft pick, was surrounded by teammates as he was taken off the field wearing an air cast. The Steelers will open the regular season in Denver on Sept. 9 without two of their top rookies — including their No. 1 draft pick, guard David DeCastro, who suffered a knee injury last week at Buffalo. Also, safety Robert Golden sustained a hamstring injury.
• Nose tackle Casey Hampton got the start and played three possessions. It was his first live action since he injured his knees in the Steelers' AFC wild-card loss at Denver in January.
• The absence of injured tight end David Johnson has given free-agent fullback Will Johnson a chance to prove himself. The West Virginia product helped spring Jonathan Dwyer for a couple of big gains.
• The Steelers' cornerbacks of the future — Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown — had a rough night. Brown suffered a knee injury in the first quarter, and Allen's confidence may have been shaken on the Panthers' first possession in the second half. Allen committed face mask and pass interference penalties before letting wide receiver Jared Green beat him on a 3-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 10.
• Rookie running back Chris Rainey scored on punt returns of 78 and 90 yards against Carolina at Heinz Field in the final preseason game. But holding penalties on Will Allen and Ryan Mundy wiped out the two sparkling returns. Rainey proved again he can strike from anywhere on the field. The Steelers appeared to solve some of their problems in the return game under new special teams coordinator Amos Jones, who replaced fired Al Everest last week.
— Ralph Paulk
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