The longest tune-up for Buffalo's starting offense and defense is what lies in front of the Bills Saturday night as they host the Pittsburgh Steelers at Ralph Wilson Stadium for a 7 pm kickoff (WKBW-TV – Channel 7). Buffalo's offense put their first touchdown drive together last week at Minnesota, but they would like to tighten things up a bit more this weekend.
"I think being in the third preseason game this is where you really start to focus in on the season," said Ryan Fitzpatrick. "This is really the last big one for the starters to go out there and get everything fine tuned before it really counts. So this is one I would say is important for us to go out there and play well."
Defensively, the starters are eager to get a feel for an offense that has a history of committing to the run game.
"We've got a lot of work ahead of us facing the Steelers, a smash mouth football team," said Mario Williams. "It's just one of those things and we really don't get to see it a lot in practice with our offense. So we kind of have to prepare amongst ourselves to get the right looks, not just when we're at practice, but when we're at home studying film."
"I think we want to have great communication," said head coach Chan Gailey. "It starts there. If you have great communication then you give yourself a chance to succeed. So we want to be as sharp as we can be and understand what we're trying to get done on the football field. We're still in the process of working things out."
Bills starters will get 30 snaps according to Coach Gailey.
"They'll go a half for sure and maybe a little bit more," he said. "Maybe the start of the second half. That's kind of the plan. Maybe the first series of the second half. We'll see where it falls."
**Young to see 2nd team work again
Quarterback Vince Young will work with the second offensive unit for the second straight week, with his performance against Minnesota giving him a decided edge in the battle for the backup job behind Fitzpatrick.
"Vince Young has performed well enough in the last two games to warrant more work," Gailey said. "He'll get the majority of the work with the twos this week. He'll get most of the reps with the second group when they go in on Saturday night. We need to see how he can handle more game plan, more playing time, more everything. It's not an indictment on Tyler (Thigpen) it's just Vince has done some good things and we know where Tyler is. We've got to evaluate Vince more."
A good performance by Young against Pittsburgh could very well clinch the backup job for the free agent signee.
Lineup notesCordy Glenn, named the starting left tackle for the season earlier in the week, will man the blind side Saturday night with Chris Hairston starting at right tackle. Erik Pears will be held out of the game as his groin problem persists.
"They did some more tests on him and it was nothing major," said Gailey of Pears. "So we're going to hold him this week and let him get well and hopefully he'll be back the next week."
Defensive end Mark Anderson is also going to be held out of Saturday's game with a groin injury.
"He's got the same thing Pears has got and we're just holding him," said Gailey. "We're going to let him get well. He's been fighting that groin for about three weeks now and we're just going to rest him."
Starting center Eric Wood, who got 10 snaps in his first live game action last week at Minnesota, will see his reps increase Saturday night.
"I don't think he'll get quite as many as the starting unit," said Gailey. "We'll try to double his snaps from last week and push him up to 20 snaps this week. So we'll try to keep building with him."
Cornerbacks Terrence McGee (knee rehab) and Justin Rogers (hamstring) have yet to see any preseason action, but that is expected to change Saturday night. Both will get a chance to play according to coach Gailey.
"We're going to try to play both of them," said Gailey. "Not too much, just enough to get their feet wet a little bit."
If they do suit up they're expected to see a handful of plays and would likely play with the second unit on defense with McGee at left cornerback and Rogers in the slot.
H-back Dorin Dickerson didn't practice on Monday or Tuesday, but returned on Wednesday. He's expected to play against Pittsburgh.
Roster decisionsAfter reviewing game tape from Saturday night's game the coaching staff will need to make decisions to reduce the roster from it's current total of 86 to 75. First cuts to get down to the required 75 must be made by Monday Aug. 27th at 4 pm.
The opponentThe Steelers have one win and one loss in the preseason thus far. Pass protection surfaced as a bit of an issue in the first game against Philadelphia with the Steelers giving up seven sacks in the game. They gave up just three in their second outing against Indianapolis.
Pittsburgh is going through some changes on their offensive line. Willie Colon was moved from right tackle to left guard during the offseason with guard being a more natural position for Colon. Top pick David DeCastro is the starting right guard.
Steelers 2011 second-round pick Marcus Gilbert began training camp at left tackle, but has since moved back to right tackle, where he played last season with Max Starks coming off PUP more than a week ago. Starks is expected to start at left tackle, but will not play as long as the rest of the starters. Pittsburgh's other first-round pick Mike Adams is now the swing tackle with Starks back in the lineup and will probably spell Starts once he exits the lineup.
Top wide receiver Mike Wallace will reportedly re-join the club by the end of the weekend after holding out for all of training camp in the hopes of landing a long-term contract instead of his one-year restricted free agent tender. He will not be available for Saturday's game.
RB Isaac Redman (hip) practiced this week and is expected to play against the Bills.
Pittsburgh has a new offensive coordinator this season in Todd Haley, former head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Defensively, pass rushers James Harrison and Jason Worilds both are still on PUP. Chris Carter will start for Harrison. NT Casey Hampton and RB Rashard Mendenhall both just came off PUP, but both had ACL surgeries in January and won't play the regular season.
Steve McLendon starts at nose tackle and Isaac Redman or Jonathan Dwyer will start at running back. Redman has been dealing with a sore groin, but he practiced this week, so he's still a consideration.
Inside LB Stevenson Sylvester had his knee scoped late last week, and is also out.
The Steelers also made a coaching change Thursday firing special teams coach Al Everest. Assistant special team coach Amos Jones.
The last time The Bills and Steelers have not faced each other in the preseason since 2009. Pittsburgh shut out Buffalo in that game at Heinz Field 17-0. Saturday will mark the first trip to Buffalo for the Steelers in the preseason since 1999.