Starters can expect busy night Saturday
Friday, August 26, 2011
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The third preseason game is traditionally the one in which the starters play the longest, and it will be no different Saturday night against the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field.

Coach Mike Tomlin said the starters will play at least a half, and one of the units might even begin the third quarter. He said his top two quarterbacks -- Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich -- will play, but he hasn't decided how he will use Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon .

"For a young guy, there probably aren't as many opportunities in this game," Tomlin said.

But he also added: "This is a big step for us, for a lot of people. The clock is ticking, if you will, in terms of some men making a statement or making a move. They're well aware of that."

One of the unsettled positions is tight end, where the team is looking for a backup to pair with Heath Miller along the line of scrimmage.

Free agents Weslye Saunders and Jamie McCoy are battling with veteran pickup John Gilmore , but there is no guarantee any of them will make the final 53-man roster. The Steelers would prefer to leave No 3 tight end David Johnson in the backfield as the H-back/fullback.

Some unlikely to play

Tomlin has ruled out only one player so far for the game -- cornerback Ike Taylor , who is recovering from a broken thumb. Taylor has been practicing while wearing a protective cast, but he is not expected to play until the opener in Baltimore.

But Tomlin also said a number of other players might not play. Those include left tackle Jonathan Scott (knee), cornerback Bryant McFadden (hamstring/groin), wide receivers Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (foot), cornerback Cortez Allen (hamstring) and linebacker Mario Harvey.

Sanders has resumed individual workouts, but likely will not begin working in team drills until next week. It is unlikely that he will play in a preseason game.

Hills to start at guard

Tomlin said former offensive tackle Tony Hills will start for the second game in a row at right guard, though he cautioned Hills has not been anointed the permanent starter.

He said Hills will start there against the Falcons because he didn't get enough time with the first team at right guard against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Hills had to move to left tackle after the first series when starter Jonathan Scott and rookie Marcus Gilbert were injured.

"He's earned that," Tomlin said of Hills. "But that battle, by no means, is over."