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Camp Countdown: How practices with the Steelers will help


Every summer leading up to training camp examines 25 of the more pertinent issues facing the team as they make their final preparations for the upcoming regular season. This year we wanted to focus on a few different areas that impact the team off the field in addition to what takes place on the field. From now until report day at training camp we'll address these subjects one at a time. Here now is the latest daily installment as we closely examine some of the answers the Buffalo Bills have to come up with between July 18 and the Sept. 7 opener at Chicago.

**The Bills haven't had an inter-squad practice or scrimmage with another NFL club since 2005 when the Green Bay Packers hosted Buffalo leading up to their preseason game that summer. Nine years later head coach Doug Marrone's group will take a similar approach traveling to Pittsburgh for a couple of days followed by their preseason tilt on Aug. 16. How will the work against the Steelers best serve the Bills?

Change of scenery


Training camp starts awfully early for the Bills. With one of the earliest report dates in the league (July 18th) the players will be in the middle of the dog days of camp come mid-August. When camp starts to drag practices can often lag in tempo and execution as well.

Heading to Pittsburgh's camp in Latrobe, Pa. for practices on Aug. 13 and Aug. 14 will be a welcome change of scenery.

"It's something that I've done before, it's something that I truly like," said Marrone. "I truly believe in it."

Real competition

Here are some key players to watch out for when the Bills take on the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Sunday November 10th, 2013.

Entering their fourth week of training camp every member of Buffalo's offense will have a firm working knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of their defensive counterparts on their roster having gone against them day in and day out at St. John Fisher.

Getting a true evaluation of their players might begin to deteriorate for the coaching staff with players more capable of anticipating what's coming from their teammates on the other side of the ball. Practicing and scrimmaging against Pittsburgh removes that built-in familiarity that develops in the training camp setting.

"We are looking for certain things and things that Coach Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers bring to the table that would help us," said Marrone. "I think there are things we can do that help them prepare for the season."

Forging an identity

Knowing there's roster turnover every offseason the Steelers have long focused on establishing their identity in their training camp setting each summer. They know what they are and they stick to that collective persona come the regular season. Marrone would undoubtedly like to do the same with his club.

Working for two days against a club that is as good as any in establishing what they represent as a team, Buffalo improves their plans of forging their own identity in the process.

"We want to set our identity of how we go into training camp and go right into the season strong," said EJ Manuel.

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