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NFL Preseason Preview - Carolina (2-1) at Pittsburgh (2-1)



By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Mike Wallace is finally back with the Pittsburgh Steelers, although the Pro Bowl wide receiver won't be in uniform when his team concludes its 2012 preseason with a clash against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field.

Wallace staged a five-week holdout from training camp over his dissatisfaction from failing to reach an agreement with the Steelers on a long-term contract, but did report to the team's facilities on Tuesday to sign his one-year restricted free agent tender. The dangerous deep threat isn't eligible to practice until the end of the week, however, but should still have enough time to be ready for when Pittsburgh opens its regular season with a primetime showdown at Denver on Sept. 9.

He's expected to join a number of prominent Pittsburgh players on the sideline for Thursday's contest, a cast that could also contain Ben Roethlisberger. The outstanding quarterback did not participate in the Steelers' 33-17 victory over Carolina in last year's preseason finale for precautionary measures.

Linebacker James Harrison, running back Rashard Mendenhall and rookie guard David DeCastro are three Steelers that definitely won't play this week. Harrison has yet to be activated from the physically unable to perform list as the veteran recovers from a knee scope, while Mendenhall is out until at least early October while still on the mend from surgery to repair a torn ACL.

DeCastro, Pittsburgh's first-round selection in this past draft who had been tabbed to start at right guard, could miss the entire 2012 season after sustaining a serious knee injury in the Steelers' 38-7 road dismantling of Buffalo on Saturday, putting a damper on an otherwise enjoyable evening for the Black and Gold.

Pittsburgh didn't miss Wallace any against the Bills, with counterpart Antonio Brown hauling in a pair of touchdown passes and burning the Buffalo secondary for 108 yards on seven receptions. Roethlisberger was quite sharp in likely his final test before the regular season, hitting on 17-of-24 throws for 169 yards and one score prior to exiting at halftime.

Other Steelers with a chance to be held out this week include running back Isaac Redman (ankle), defensive end Brett Keisel (ankle), nose tackle Casey Hampton (knee) and outside linebacker Jason Worilds (wrist).

The Panthers are also coming off a victory over an AFC East foe over the weekend, besting the offensively challenged New York Jets by a 17-12 count Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Carolina prevailed despite an off night from quarterback Cam Newton, with the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year completing just 6-of-15 attempts for 60 yards and losing a fumble on a sack. He did connect with wide receiver Louis Murphy for a three-yard touchdown late in the first half, however.

Carolina's first-round selection in this year's draft, linebacker Luke Kuechly, had a better game. The impressive rookie was credited with 10 tackles in leading a defensive effort that limited the punchless Jets to 290 total yards.

The Panthers did sustain one notable injury in the win, with running back Jonathan Stewart exiting with a sprained ankle in the first half. The team is hopeful he'll be able to take part in its Week 1 opener at Tampa Bay.

Newton probably won't play more than one series in Thursday's tilt and won't have top wide receiver Steve Smith available for a second straight week due to a foot infection. Carolina's defense will again be without middle linebacker Jon Beason, who's been bothered by a hamstring injury all throughout camp.

The Steelers have topped Carolina in preseason play each of the last five years following last summer's triumph and own a 9-4 advantage in the all-time exhibition series.

08/28 14:03:40 ET

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