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Steelers notebook: Jon Bostic one of few starters to see action in preseason finale

September 25, 2018

Steelers receiver Ryan Switzer returns a punt against the Panthers Thursday Aug. 30 2018 at Heinz Field

Among the Pittsburgh Steelers’ projected 22 starters on offense and defense, only one started Thursday’s preseason finale.

New inside linebacker Jon Bostic took the first snap of the game against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field. No. 1 nose tackle Javon Hargrave was also announced among the starters, and he played in the game - but technically did not “start” because the Steelers went with their nickel subpackage.

The headliner among the starting defense was first-round pick Terrell Edmunds.

On offense, the recognizable names were even less conspicuous. No projected starters played; perhaps as few as 3-4 players who will even be on the 53-man roster by the end of the weekend were among those who started.

Aside from starters, players not generally considered part of the first team who also did not play included running back James Conner and receiver James Washington (abdominal injury).

Among projected starters, Antonio Brown, T.J. Watt, Vance McDonald and Ramon Foster did not play at all in any of the preseason games.

The starters on defense Thursday were largely the projected backups at most positions. On offense, it was a little deeper down the depth chart, with players such as receivers Damoun Patterson and Trey Griffey and tight end Pharoah McKever among those who took the first snap.

Switzer debut

It wasn’t his Heinz Field debut - that came almost five years ago, when he had two punt-return touchdowns for North Carolina against Pitt - but Ryan Switzer made his Steelers debut Thursday.

Acquired Monday from the Oakland Raiders in a deal that involved an exchange of late-round draft picks, Switzer was the Steelers’ lone returner of punts and kickoffs in the first half.

One of his punt returns went for 9 yards and featured a deke and a missed tackle. The kickoffs were returned for 21 and 22 yards.

A receiver by trade, Switzer is expected to be the Steelers’ return specialist this season.

Pitt’s Quadree Henderson handled return duties in the second half.

Berry punts, holds

After coach Mike Tomlin somewhat surprisingly acknowledged a window for Matt Wile to beat out three-year incumbent Jordan Berry at punter, Berry handled the punting and holding duties in the first half - albeit that consisted of only one punt and three holds for Chris Boswell.

Wile was the punter after the Steelers’ first drive of the second half stalled.

Ridley, McCullers return

Running back Stevan Ridley and nose tackle Dan McCullers played Thursday after missing the previous game last week at Heinz Field against the Tennessee Titans because of injury. Ridley had game-highs in carries (six) and rushing yards (36) in the first half, and the 29-year-old also played into the second half.

Joining Brown, Watt, McDonald and Foster as those who were previously injured who missed at least a second consecutive game because of injury were slot cornerback Mike Hilton, safety Morgan Burnett and tight end Xavier Grimble.

The only in-game injury during the first half was first-year linebacker Keith Kelsey, who suffered a pectoral injury and did not return.

Football footnotes

The announced attendance was 40,081. ... Not much annoys Tomlin more than communication issues, and he had to call timeouts on each of the first two snaps of the second quarter with his defense on the field and Carolina driving in Steelers territory. ... For the third consecutive season, Jordan Dangerfield made a start at safety for the Steelers in a preseason game. Dangerfield has played in 20 of the Steelers’ 21 preseason games since 2014. ... In regards to the battle for the final roster spot at outside linebacker, Ola Adeniyi had a strip sack and Keion Adams recovered the fumble. It was the third sack in four preseason games for undrafted rookie Adeniyi.

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