On the Steelers: Offense plays it safe with and without Roethlisberger

Any question that Ben Roethlisberger and his first-team offense might play a little football Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers exploded along with the anterior cruciate ligament in Sam Bradford's left knee Saturday night.

Bradford, the St. Louis Rams quarterback, is done for the season after his injury in the third preseason game.

"To me, isn't that the Rams' biggest fear that just came true?" Roethlisberger asked. "It's the same for any team -- the Patriots, if something happened to Tom Brady, the Broncos if something happened to Peyton Manning ... "

And the Steelers if something happened to Roethlisberger. He hasn't played in the final preseason game since 2009, so it's no surprise he will not play in this one, even though he and his offense did not look in sync for the first seven series of their game Thursday in Philadelphia. He threw his first interception of the preseason and was sacked his first two times. It took them until their eighth series, well into the third quarter, before they scored on his 27-yard pass to Heath Miller.

Matchup: Steelers vs. Carolina Panthers.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Heinz Field.


Skinny: This is the final preseason game, so many starters will be limited or not playing at all.

Yet it sounded Thursday as if coach Mike Tomlin wanted to see more in the finale after their poor performance against the Eagles.

"It's more important about how we move forward and make the proper corrections in all three phases so that doesn't happen again," Tomlin said.

Roethlisberger, however, showed little concern about that performance, his offense or needing to play against Carolina. He described the team's goal against the Panthers as "guys that are going to play stay healthy, get some good work in."

He shrugged off their performance in Philadelphia.

"The preseason is just that," Roethlisberger said. "It's for kind of getting the chance to look at things, different reads. We move guys around to see where guys could best be fit and it's the preseason. We stayed healthy and that was the most important thing."

Roethlisberger said the Steelers did not use the no-huddle much in Philadelphia because they did not want to showcase anything to their regular-season opponents. Indeed, he said they hold most of the plays and formations they want to run out of the preseason games.

"Quite a bit. Even things such as snap count, we try to keep it very basic. It might sound silly, but we just don't move guys around a lot. We just keep them in basic spots. ... I don't want to call preseason practice, but it kind of is."

Although Roethlisberger will not play, it's possible other starters will.

Roethlisberger and some teammates have moved their concentration to the Sept. 7 opener against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field.

"Just started looking today at a few things and it was only about a half hour, 45 minutes worth," the quarterback said of the Browns, who have a new coach in Mike Pettine.

"You see some different stuff, different players, but still three down [linemen] and mixing some nickel stuff in."

Roethlisberger said they also will watch some past video of the Buffalo Bills defense, since that is where Pettine served as defensive coordinator last season. The Steelers beat the Bills, 23-10, in November.

Pouncey stays braced

Offensive linemen will soon be free not to wear the knee braces the team asked them to wear throughout training camp and the preseason games.

Center Maurkice Pouncey will strap both of his on for the rest of the season and probably the rest of his career.

"I'm choosing to wear it the whole year," Pouncey said. "I don't want to go through that again."

Pouncey's 2013 season began and ended on the first series of the regular season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. A piece of his patellar tendon was grafted to repair the ACL in his right knee.

Some linemen believe the knee braces slow them down.

"Most guys won't [wear them]; they like to be a little looser," Pouncey said. "It's all mental, I think. We're not running 40-yard dashes."

Pouncey, who has used his strength and quickness to become the first center to make Pro Bowls his first three years in the NFL, said he does not notice any difference in his speed or quickness with the braces.

'Swift' justice?

If the Steelers discipline halfbacks Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount for being charged with marijuana possession on their way to catch the team charter to Philadelphia, it will likely remain internal and private, Tomlin said.

Although he said everything is on the table, keeping it private likely means there will be no self-imposed game suspension by the Steelers.

"They're going to be dealt with swiftly and appropriately," Tomlin said.

Quick hits

* The Steelers made no cuts Monday and will make most, if not all of them, this morning. Teams must reduce their rosters to 75 by 4 p.m.

* Two rookies are candidates for the short-term injured reserve list: linebacker Jordan Zumwalt (groin) and cornerback Shaquille Richardson (knee).

* Linebacker Sean Spence said he has a slightly sprained PCL and is hoping to be ready to play by the regular-season opener.

Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.

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