Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Chris Carter with sack/fumble (Halverson/Getty)

The young wide receivers carried many of the negatives, while the play of the defensive front seven was generally positive. Read more:

Here's a look at the ups and downs, winners and losers, from the Steelers' 25-10 loss Thursday night to the Carolina Panthers:

Thumbs Up: Landry Jones' first half -- He looked nothing like the indecisive, sack-able college quarterback that he was in big games at Oklahoma, or even during the spring and summer in Pittsburgh. Jones survived not only a drop on his first pass but a crushing blow from DE Greg Hardy to complete 10 of 20 for 133 yards and a tight TD pass to David Paulson at the goal line in the middle of three Panthers.

Thumbs Down: Landry Jones' second half -- This is the Landry I had been watching this summer. Again, he was victimized by multiple drops, was working behind a line led by "Abdullah the Butcher" Whimper, and a receiver who fell down at a critical moment. But Jones still threw 3 interceptions in a 6 for 15 second half for 56 yards with 1 sack. No wonder I fell asleep in the third quarter.

Thumbs Up: Derek Moye -- The tall Penn Stater again flashed his run-after-catch skills by taking 2 receptions for 55 yards. He also showed off his blocking on a wide receiver screen, but most impressively ran down an interception 70 yards down the field to save the Steelers 4 points.

Thumbs Down: Reggie Dunn and Justin Brown -- Dunn ran well on a pair of reverses (9 and 10 yards), but was perhaps so frustrated by catching kickoffs behind the back line and little room on two earlier punts that he caught a late punt on his own 3, ran laterally, and then backwards into the end zone, and was tackled for a safety. Brown was equally unimpressive by fair-catching a punt even though no one was within 10 yards of him. Brown also fell down late in the game to allow Jones' third interception.

Thumbs Up: Felix Jones -- Running behind the aforementioned Butcher Boys upon entering the backfield for the first possession of the second quarter, as well as the replacements for injured Will Johnson at fullback, Jones showed plenty of life in those veteran legs with 56 yards on 14 carries (4.0) and a pair of catches (9 yards). Looks like the zone runner this team lacks, and a likely roster lock.

Thumbs Down: Will Johnson -- It wasn't his on-field performance that drew this distinction, but a hamstring injury that forced him from the game in the middle of the first quarter. Until then, Johnson moved nearly as quickly as Dunn in getting out in front of one reverse, and four plays later blew open the hole for Jonathan Dwyer on a 12-yard run. This fullback can do more than catch the ball, but Tomlin didn't know the degree of Johnson's injury after the game. He has 10 days to heal.

Thumbs Up: Jamie McCoy and David Paulson -- McCoy probably won't make the team, but if this was his last game he went out hustling and blocking like no other fullback replacement could last night. Speaking of which, Paulson was dreadful on his one chance to lead-block, but he did catch a TD pass and later hurdled safety Robert Lester in the open field.

Thumbs Down: Markus Wheaton -- This was the rookie's worst game. He dropped the first pass of the game, fell down on a deep pass in the third quarter, and dropped a third-and-7 pass that was a bit high but catchable for a player with his skill set. Wheaton was shown on the sideline next to Ben Roethlisberger and Wheaton had his mouth shut as Ben spoke. It's just a sample of the attitude that will make Wheaton a key piece later in the season.

Thumbs Up: Mike Golic and Joe Madsen -- Speaking of great attitudes, these two offensive linemen finally got their preseason chances and didn't make a mistake that was obvious to me. They both hustled as if they were playing in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. And they've both been complete class acts throughout their time here.

Thumbs Down: Curtis Brown -- Let's get the ball rolling on defense with a third-year corner who's just not getting any better. Brown allowed Ted Ginn to blow past him on both touchdowns. No, Brown's not known as a deep-speed guy, and he didn't get any help from the slow-reacting Damon Cromartie-Smith on either pass, but being a brittle-but-physical corner is a contradiction of terms that doesn't bode well for his long-term future. Awful game, but not bad enough to get him cut. ... I don't think.

Thumbs Up: Robert Golden -- Flying around like a missile, he also did some late man-to-man coverage work befitting his cornerback pedigree. Counting rookie Shamarko Thomas, the Steelers have two safeties who can cover wide receivers.

Thumbs Down: Marshall McFadden and Kion Wilson -- Probably because I've enjoyed both of these players throughout camp so much that I wanted them to clinch spots last night, but McFadden seemed a step slow (and also wasted steps) in comparison with sidekick Brian Rolle, and Wilson seemed to be outplayed by rookie Vince Williams, who had his best showing at ILB yet. On the positive side, both McFadden and Wilson made special-teams tackles to match Rolle and Williams in that department.

Thumbs Up: William Gay -- Didn't play all that much, but didn't give up a touchdown pass, either.

Thumbs Down: Alameda Ta'amu -- Not that he played poorly, but he was clearly outplayed by his competition, Loni Fangupo, who showed how a NT is supposed to take on double teams and split them to make tackles. On one goal-line play, with both in the game, an end zone camera showed Fangupo getting well under the pile while Ta'amu took his time lining up and then getting stood up at the snap. Fangupo also hit a receiver 8 yards down field because of hustle.

Thumbs Up: Chris Carter and Alan Baxter -- Both second-team OLBs played well, with Carter making a pair of sacks and forcing a fumble (that went out of bounds). Baxter fought off blocks to run down the first play of the second half, and also forced the Carolina QB out of the pocket to give Carter his sack/strip fumble. Undrafted rookie Terence Garvin replaced Carter late and -- while he was once again run at with success -- flashed his quickness by beating a block to make a tackle at the sideline.

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