Starters to play at least a half

Steelers' starters will have their final preparation for the regular season when they take on the Buffalo Bills on Saturday night in the team's third preseason game.

The starters are expected to play at least the first half, and possibly longer depending on what Coach Mike Tomlin sees out of them.

"I want to see them execute," said Tomlin of the starting offense, who have only played five series so far in the preseason. "That's always the case, but particularly in this third game, they are going to work at least a half. I expect to see a quality half of football."

In preparation for the game the team has taken a mock regular season approach this week, ultimately preparing the players for what it's going to be like when they open the regular season in Denver.

"We are back at the facility, so that also adds a little bit of normalcy," said Tomlin. "It is good that this game is on the road in Buffalo, because we start the regular season in a similar circumstance on the road against a really good team in a hostile environment.

"All the ingredients are there for a good opportunity for us to improve and show what we are capable of. I am looking forward to watching the guys work, and work in a game-like fashion. Our preparation is probably more complete, not to be confused with complete, but we did simulate what is a normal in-season week from a preparation standpoint."

Linebacker Chris Carter will start his third preseason game at outside linebacker in place of James Harrison, who is still on the physically unable to perform list and won't play against the Bills.

"I think the biggest thing is that he has obviously improved as a player in a lot of ways between year one and year two, which is what we ask all of our developing second-year players to do," said Tomlin. "He has done that. He is stronger at the point. He has always had a nice motor.

"He is getting better from an assignment standpoint and quality of detail assignment standpoint. But the most important thing he is doing is that he is taking advantage of the opportunity that someone else's misfortune has given him. He hasn't taken empty snaps."

Tomlin said there are still some decisions to be made about how much playing time some players coming off injuries will get against the Bills, but four players have definitely been ruled out. Running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Jason Ford along with Harrison and fellow linebacker Stevenson Sylvester will be out of action as they won't even make the trip to Buffalo.

"Other than that, I like to keep the door open at this time of year for all potential participants," said Tomlin. "Obviously some have better chances than others. Casey Hampton just came off the PUP list. Even though he is traveling, he is probably not going to play. Most of the other situations we will play by ear and see what will happen as we get close to game time."

The quarterback rotation has not been finalized after Ben Roethlisberger starting, but Tomlin did say that Jerrod Johnson will not play this week. Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich both sat out a week of the preseason as well.

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