Originally written on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 9/1/12

Despite a late rally, the Carolina Panthers lost their preseason finale to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field  on Thursday night, 17-16.

The Panthers, who fell behind 10-0 within the first 15 minutes of the game, bounced back to tie the score in the third quarter when Jimmy Clausen engineered a 10-play, 87-yard drive on his first series, capped off by a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jared Green.

After trading punts on the next three possessions, Armon Smith put the Panthers within striking distance by running for three straight first downs. However, the drive stalled after a delay of game penalty and two Jimmy Clausen incompletions. Ron Rivera elected to allow kicker Justin Medlock to attempt a 56-yard field goal to give the Panthers the lead. Medlock's kick had plenty of distance, but hooked wide left.

After trading punts to begin the fourth quarter, the Steelers finally broke the tie when quarterback Jerrod Johnson hit tight end Weslye Saunders for a 6-yard touchdown.

The score would stay this way until Clausen hit wideout Lamont Bryant for a 79-yard score to pull the Panthers within a single point. Bryant, an undrafted rookie out of Morgan State, outleaped Steelers corner Terrence Frederick to reel in the ball, then slipped out of a tackle and cruised 40 yards to the end zone, untouched.

In an effort to avoid overtime, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera opted to go for two. Clausen looked Bryant’s way again, but this time the pass was broken up.

The Panthers, after forcing a Steelers three-and-out, would get one more chance to win the game. Clausen drove the Panthers 33 yards into field goal range behind a pair of completions to tight end Joe Jon Finley. Medlock’s kick again had plenty of distance, but sailed wide right.

Despite falling short at the end, Rivera was proud of his team.

"This is a team (the Steelers) that's got a lot of history, a lot of heritage," Rivera told the Charlotte Observer following the game. "And I told our players, to be able to come into a city like this and play hard and play well, that means we're growing and learning."

The Panthers will kick off the regular season on the road against division-rival Tampa Bay next Sunday, September 9th.

Game Notes: Jimmy Clausen finished 9-for-19 passing for 173 yards and two scores.

Derek Anderson, who started the game, completed just 8-of-18 passes for 91 yards in four series of play.

Armon Smith led the Panthers rushing attack with 16 carries for 85 yards.

Linebacker Jason Williams led the defense with 10 tackles.

Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch, 37, completed 11-of-14 passes for 102 yards and a score.

Steelers rookie running back/kick returner Chris Rainey returned two Brad Nortman punts for touchdowns, but both were called back on holding penalties.

Latest Panthers Roster Updates: The Panthers traded a seventh-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for safety/special teams ace Colin Jones on Friday.

The team has also made its final cuts, parting ways with cornerback Darius Butler, wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu, wide receiver Jared Green, defensive end Ryan Van Bergen, defensive tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo, cornerback R.J. Stanford, offensive lineman Matt Reynolds, linebacker David Nixon, running back Tauren Poole and linebacker Kion Wilson.

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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