Steelers notebook: Safety Mitchell faces former team, hurts leg

| Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 9:48 p.m.

Steelers safety Mike Mitchell opposed his former team, at least for a series — long enough to get an apparently minor right leg injury.

Mitchell spent last season with NFC finalist Carolina before signing with the Steelers. He will go against the Panthers in his former home stadium Sept. 21.

“That should be interesting,” he said. “This one? Not so much.”

• Six defensive starters, based on the Steelers' current depth chart, played during Carolina's opening series: Linebackers Jarvis Jones, Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier, defensive end Stephon Tuitt, cornerback Ike Taylor and Mitchell. Shazier played most of the first half. Nose tackle Steve McLendon also played. Offensive regulars who started were wide receiver Markus Wheaton, who ran for 15 yards on the first play from scrimmage; left tackle Kelvin Beachum, left guard Ramon Foster, right guard David DeCastro and right tackle Marcus Gilbert. Center Maurkice Pouncey was the only offensive line starter held out. Foster and Beachum stayed out for the second series. Dri Archer started at running back in place of Le'Veon Bell or LeGarrette Blount, but Bell and Blount later played.

• For the third consecutive year, Ben Roethlisberger did not play in the final preseason game. Troy Polamalu sat out the first and fourth games. Coach Mike Tomlin has been especially cautious about protecting key personnel in the last exhibition since backup quarterback Byron Leftwich was lost for the season with an injury in the final preseason game in 2010, when Roethlisberger was suspended for the first four games.

• Both teams went for it on fourth-and-short on their opening series. The Panthers converted a fourth-and-1 at the Steelers' 37 on Mike Tolbert's 2-yard run, but the Steelers' Blount was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Panthers' 49.

• The Steelers' defense allowed a long drive in the first quarter for the third time in four games, as the Panthers used 14 plays on game-opening field-goal drive. In earlier games, the Bills kept the ball for 11 plays on their first drive, and the Eagles had an 11-play touchdown drive on their second series.

• Referee Tony Corrente issued a stern, on-field edict to the clock operator during a Panthers drive late in the second quarter, imploring him — with the entire stadium listening — to “please pay attention” and start the clock upon signal.

• Two Steelers players were lifted with injuries before halftime: CB Brice McCain (groin) and WR Martavis Bryant (right shoulder). Bryant caught one pass before leaving.

• Tomlin gave rookie Brad Wing two chances to work on his situational punting in the first half. Wing punted 31 yards to the Panthers' 11 in the second quarter and 39 yards to the Panthers' 6 on the next-to-last play of the half.

• Now come the unkindest cuts of all. The Steelers must trim from 75 players to 53 by Saturday, in advance of their first game Sept. 7 against Cleveland.

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