CHARLOTTE -- David Carr made his first start for Carolina, but it's not yet time for conspiracy theorists to crank up.
Starter Jake Delhomme dressed and went through pre-game warm-ups, but didn't play Thursday against Pittsburgh. Wide receiver Steve Smith did the same thing, standing next to his quarterback much of the night.
Delhomme's had an uneven preseason (good twice and awful in between), but the real reason for his absence likely has more to do with the "twitch" in his side that kept him out of practice for a few days last week.
Carr played two series with the quasi-starters, then played the rest of the half with the second offense. The team put a field goal on the board, a score set up by a 46-yard launch down the sideline to Dwayne Jarrett.
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Carr also threw an ugly interception while trying to force one to Jarrett, leaving it well short and right to Steelers linebacker Clint Kriewaldt.
He finished the night 8-of-12 for 85 yards, for a rating of 52.4.
• SHORT NIGHT: The Panthers' starting defense, minus linebacker Dan Morgan, played just one series, yielding one first down. Morgan did as he did the first two games, dressing and warming up but not leaving the sidelines.
They started Na'il Diggs at weakside linebacker, partially so they could continue their preseason plan of getting rookie Jon Beason as many snaps as possible. The second defense played the first half before giving way to the guys playing for chances on the practice squad.
• EXTRA ONE TO PLAY WITH: While the Panthers have to make final cuts Saturday, they will have one extra spot to work with.
Because of the team-imposed suspension of guard Jeremy Bridges for the first two regular-season games, they'll actually get to build their 53-man roster without him until Week 3, when he's eligible to return.
That likely means they'll carry nine linemen (plus Bridges) for the first two weeks, before they have to release a player to activate Bridges.
• INJURY UPDATE: Although the regulars didn't play long, defensive end Stanley McClover wasn't able to finish because of an injury.
McClover suffered a strained groin on the first series (the same one on which he jumped offside), and didn't return with the second group.
Safety Nate Salley (knee) and fullback Steven Jackson (back) didn't dress.
• EXTRA POINTS: The Panthers had some confusion early, calling a first-quarter timeout because they had 12 defensive players on the field for a third down. ... The game started about 20 minutes late because of thunderstorms in the area. They cleared the stadium about an hour before the scheduled kickoff, telling fans to get to the concourses and running players from the field.