The first-team offense will get its first extended action of the preseason, and you can look for the starters to play at least a quarter. Ben Roethlisberger put together a nice drive in the only series the veteran quarterback played last Saturday night against the Giants, but the Steelers couldn’t finish it. They had to settle for a Shaun Suisham field goal after the offense stalled inside the Giants’ 10-yard line. “That’s certainly a trend we don’t want to start, not finishing off our drive,” tight end Heath Miller said. “We need to be better in the red zone.” The Steelers also need to be better when it comes to extending drives. They converted just 2 of 14 times on third down in the 20-16 loss to the Giants.
All signs point to rookie inside linebacker Ryan Shazier playing in his first preseason game. Shazier, who didn’t play against the Giants because of a bruised knee, was a full participant in the Steelers’ final practice of training camp. The speedy Shazier has been impressive when he has been on the practice field. Now it’s time for the first-round pick to show what he can do in a game. The first-team defense should be intact with Shazier’s anticipated NFL debut and strong safety Troy Polamalu also expected to play against the Bills. Coach Mike Tomlin didn’t play Polamalu against the Giants, but the eight-time Pro Bowler needs to get some game action with new free safety Mike Mitchell.
A number of players who showed progress in camp could make a move in the game, and that is critical to their push for a spot on the 53-man roster. Tomlin said that the last week of camp (which concluded with a pair of joint practices with the Bills at St. Vincent College) and the Steelers’ second preseason camp is when separation among players fighting for a roster spot really occurs. That should keep fans from changing the channel after the starters have been taken out of the game. Linebacker Dan Molls, who led the Steelers with nine tackles against the Giants, should see extended playing time if Vince Williams (concussion) and Jordan Zumwalt (groin) don’t play against the Bills. Other players to watch include defensive end Josh Mauro, tight end Eric Waters, running back Tauren Poole, outside linebacker Howard Jones and safety Jordan Dangerfield. “I told a couple of guys we’re calling for a third defense [in practice] and in a couple of weeks there will be no third defense,” Tomlin said earlier this week. “So if you’re on the third defense you better make a move.”