Ready to kick it into the next gear

Tuesday was the team's final open practice, with a closed one on Wednesday morning, before their preseason opener on Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles and Coach Mike Tomlin is ready to kick it into the next gear.

"We're excited about adventuring into our first stadium here this preseason and starting the process of playing against another team," said Tomlin. "It's that time for us in terms of our growth and development. We're excited about doing that.

"We're excited about seeing many of the men inside a stadium in a Steelers' uniform for the first time. I'm really excited about taking this group on the road and getting started with this preseason process. This is a big portion of evaluation as we try to trim our roster down to an eventual 53."

Tomlin said starters will see limited action, but some of the younger players like rookies David DeCastro and Mike Adams who are making their first start might see more playing time.

"It's business as usual for us in terms of our first preseason game," said Tomlin. "We haven't nailed down specifically a rep count at this juncture. I'll assure you though that the first groups will go one-to-two series both on offense and defense. We're not opposed to giving people within those groups extended work if we deem necessary or pulling someone out of those units if we deem necessary. We've done that pretty consistently in the past."

Running back Baron Batch has waited a long time to play in his first NFL game, injuring his knee just before the preseason opener his rookie season last year.

Batch spent the 2011season on injured reserve, but has worked his tail off the entire offseason and is ready for it to pay off on Thursday night against the Eagles.

"I am pretty ready, but I will be more ready when Thursday gets here," said Batch. "But I am definitely excited about it

"This last year, during the season it was slow but when the season ended it got here pretty quick. I have been working hard to put myself in the best situation and I am excited to finally put it on the field."

Even though Batch has taken hits and cut during practice, the real test will come when the speed picks up in the game.

"I have talked about having check marks I have to go through," said Batch. "Going through OTAs is a check. Going through this was another check mark. This is the final thing to be back. I am ready."

Fellow running back Isaac Redman is also ready for game day to get a true feel of how the team looks.

"We get to see how we fare against another team in a game time situation," said Redman. "That first drive, we will get some film and be able to see how it looks."

Redman said that things are moving along smoothly with Todd Haley's offense, which gets it first test on Thursday.

"The offense is picking up," said Redman. "We have most of it in. Now we can stop thinking and start playing fast."

Linebacker James Harrison seems to be asked the same question every day, and so far the answer has been the same as to how he is progressing health-wise.

"I am doing all right," said Harrison. "That's it."

While he is shooting to be ready for the regular season opener against the Denver Broncos, he isn't sure when he will return to the practice field.

"I don't know. We'll see," said Harrison. "I know I am not playing in the game. That is obvious. We're taking it day by day and seeing where I am at the end of each day."

The Steelers take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, Aug. 9 at Lincoln Financial Field. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. and can be seen in the Pittsburgh area on KDKA-TV. Fans can also subscribe to Preseason Live to see the Steelers throughout the preseason on your computer or tablet.

The Steelers return to practice at St. Vincent College on Saturday, Aug. 11 and Sunday, Aug. 12 at 2:55 p.m. Both practices are open to the public.

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