View Full Version : Starters face an 'important' test in exhibition game vs. Buffalo

08-28-2009, 12:38 AM
Starters face an 'important' test in exhibition game vs. Buffalo
Friday, August 28, 2009
By Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Matt Freed/Post-Gazette

Mike Tomlin is rounding into regular-season form with his preparation for tomorrow's exhibition game against Buffalo.

There are still 13 days before the Steelers kick off the 2009 NFL season against the Tennessee Titans, but tomorrow night's preseason game against the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field will serve as the final dress rehearsal for the starters.

The first-team offense and defense played only five series apiece in the preseason games against Arizona and Washington. The starters will play at least the first half tomorrow and then only a series or two next week at Carolina.

Preseason games are generally regarded as meaningless for everyone but the coaches. But if there is one game the players take seriously, it is the third one, because this is the game that most mimics a regular-season contest.

"It's very important," offensive tackle Max Starks said. "This is our last opportunity where we're actually going to play a significant amount of snaps. Obviously, going into the season opener in two weeks you want to be as polished as possible because we won't get the opportunity for any significant amount of time [against Carolina].

"For us, it's about getting crisp on our assignments and getting crisp on our execution and techniques. It is important because you're only as good as your last game. If you go out with a good performance in your last significant preseason game it usually helps as a springboard for the season."

The first teams had little opportunity for extended play in the past weeks. The starting offense did not score in two series against the Cardinals and scored one touchdown in three series against the Redskins. The starting defense has allowed three points in five series, with the lone points coming last week on the opening drive when the Redskins used a fake punt to set up a field goal.

The Steelers did not game-plan for either of the first two games, but coach Mike Tomlin has made this week as much like a typical game week as possible.

"It's important because we have to get our timing down as a team," linebacker James Farrior said. "The starters will probably get the most reps we'll get in the preseason. We want to make it look good, have a good dress rehearsal. We'll be out there for real, so everyone is going to take this seriously. We're going to try to win this game."

For the veterans, the first two games served as a way to knock the rust off after a long offseason.

"Everyone wants to play and go out and see what they got," Farrior said. "You want to prepare yourself. You want to use these games as a measuring stick for how you're going to be. It will be a good test for us."

Receiver Hines Ward is entering his 12th season with the Steelers. He acknowledged that this is the most important game of the preseason, but he has been around long enough to know that this game won't shape the season.

"You would love to finish the last dress rehearsal good, but it won't make or break our season," Ward said. "We're not going to put too much emphasis on it. We want to go out there and get some rhythm. We would love to put up a couple of touchdowns and have a couple of good drives, put up a few points during the half. If we do that we'll be fine. But we won't put all of our chips on what we do in this third game."

Tomlin said the starters will play the first two quarters against the Bills and left open the possibility that they will play into the third quarter.

"We'll analyze it at the half and decide where we'll go from there," Tomlin said. "More than anything we want to see 30 minutes of Steelers football and then make some determinations at the half."

Ward wants to play as long as Tomlin will let him.

"I want to play a lot," he said. "You can't simulate game speed. When I put on a uniform I want to play. It's important to go out there and get the game speed down because next week we probably won't play much."

Ray Fittipaldo can be reached at rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1230

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09240/993863-66.stm#ixzz0PRQRZwCP

08-28-2009, 03:09 AM
Thats why ward gets his 1000 recptions and 10000 yards. I love this guy.