Starters going a quarter
The Steelers will play their starting units for one quarter of Saturday's game against the Buffalo Bills, marking what's likely a solid increase from the handful of snaps they played against the Giants in the opener.
While there aren't really any starting positions up for competition at this point, determining the feasibility of certain players in certain package situations will be determined over the next three preseason games. Players like safety Shamarko Thomas, defensive lineman Cam Thomas and linebacker Vince Williams are competing for more playing time, and will get it probably over the final three quarters of the game. That's still a critical time period for them in terms of showing enough value to be called upon in Week 1.
Defensive minded Bills
The challenge on offense will be found in a much more active and athletic defensive front in Buffalo as opposed to New York. If their 1s will go the same amount of time, it will likely be a bit tougher to move the ball than the opening drive against the Giants. The Steelers went 70 yards in seven plays, capped off by Dri Archer's 46-yard run-after-catch on a screen pass. Le'Veon Bell rushed twice for 16 yards but the Steelers couldn't get in the end zone.
Buffalo is a well-coached and improving unit capable of running multiple packages and variations. While teams don't generally blitz in complex ways during the preseason, the Bills don't need to blitz to generate pressure with the dominant front four they have (Mario WIlliams and Marcel Dareus in particular). It's an excellent test for the Steelers' much-heralded offensive line.
Defensively, ignoring the impossible-to-ignore 73-yard touchdown run allowed, the Steelers played very well, and getting their entire first team on the field for a full quarter will give a much stronger idea of where this team is heading into its first round of cuts.
It'll be a good thing to get reps against a strong ground game like the Bills. A deep backfield coupled with a solid run scheme will give Pittsburgh good experience against what appears to be a very run-heavy AFC North. Any and all work the defense can get against the run would be ideal for Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who's squad is likely to see 35 or more carries from Cleveland in Week 1.
Rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins showed this week at practice, at the expense of Steelers cornerback Lew Toler, why he was the fourth overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft and why Buffalo dealt a first round pick next year to get him.
While the video probably does a better job depicting a defender who won't be around much longer rather than showing the start of a Hall of Fame career for the receiver, you can see how fluid he is already, and why it wouldn't be a surprise to see Buffalo look to get him 100-plus targets this season. Watkins is fun to watch, and at least based on the team's early looks against the Giants in the Hall of Fame game, Buffalo may try to get him the ball deep early.
Specialists thinned out
There is no back-up punter behind Brad Wing, and the likely reason is the Steelers wanting to give Wing another game to get some work in before determining how they want to address the fact Adam Podlesh was signed but never reported to the team. Rookie Bryce Davis was promoted to the first unit long snapper position in wake of the injury to Greg Warren (he'll miss four weeks with a knee injury)