Entering the final exhibition of the preseason, Ron Rivera hoped to see the depth at offensive line shake out by the end of Thursday night.
In order to do that, the Panthers coach used two different line configurations in the first two series and each produced different results against the Steelers.
Carolina scored in six plays within the first three minutes of the game with a starting offensive line of LT Byron Bell, LG Travelle Wharton, C Brian Folkerts, RG Chris Scott and RT Garry Williams.
Bell flipped sides from right to left guard in place of Jordan Gross. The team hopes he can improve at left tackle with Gross backup, Bruce Campbell, done for the season with a rotator cuff injury. Wharton was the only lineman to play where he likely will start next year while Folkerts got the nod at center in place of Pro Bowler Ryan Kalil and with primary backup Jeff Byers sidelined with a knee injury.
Garry Williams took Bells right tackle spot while Scott filled in for Williams at his starting right guard spot.
In the next offensive series, Nate Chandler went in at left tackle, Scott flipped to left guard and Hayworth Hicks took over at right guard. Carolina went three-and-out after failing to convert on third-and-1.
Both lines kept starting quarterback Derek Anderson clean, with the quarterback not having to scramble until early in the second quarter when he nearly picked up a first down on a 9-yard scamper.
Rare challenge: Rivera pulled out the red challenge flag in the second quarter in a move thats rarely seen in the final preseason game.
The Panthers challenged a second-down play where Armond Smith attempted to leap into the end zone from 1 yard out. The play was originally ruled as short of the end zone, and Rivera threw the flag.
Upon review, the officials upheld the ruling. On the next play, Smith was once again denied the end zone, and Carolina was forced to take the field goal.
Receiving area: Ted Ginn Jr. further complicated the Panthers No. 3 wide receiver race with his performance Thursday night.
His 87-yard touchdown reception on a pass from Derek Anderson showed Ginns speed, much like his punt return the previous week against Baltimore did.
With David Gettis, the teams preseason receiving leader entering the game, and Armanti Edwards sitting Thursday night, Ginn and Hixon were able to step up and stake their claims for the No. 3 spot.
Hixon finished the first half with three catches for 44 yards while Ginn had five grabs for 149 yards and two scores.
• Full-priced tickets for the final exhibition and two local colleges with large Charlotte fan bases playing meant the Panthers crowd was heavily out-numbered by Terrible Towels at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday.
• Charlotte native and Boston Marathon bombing survivor Nicole Gross banged the Keep Pounding drum before the start of the game.
• Linebacker Jon Beason played in the first two series of the game. Beason said earlier in the week he felt that he needed the reps to get stronger, but didnt want to stay in the game too long.
• Tauren Poole showed a good deal of lateral quickness and a nice sidestep.
• Safety D.J. Campbell suffered a leg injury in the second quarter and did not return to the game.
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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