Buffalo Bills (1-2) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1)
With the starters expected to play the entire first half against the Buffalo Bills, the Steelers will get an extensive look at 2nd year running back Rashard Mendenhall.
Starting running Willie Parker is limited with a hamstring injury and Mendenhall will make his second start of the preseason tonight.
After rushing for only 24 yards on 9 carries in the Steelers preseason opener against Arizona, Mendenhall had 26 yards on 5 carries against the Washington Redskins last Saturday.
Despite being the 2nd youngest player on the team and missing much of the 2008 season, some of the media has gone out of their way to claim Mendenhall is a bust, even before the young running back has suited up for five regular season games in his career.
Mendenhall’s performance against Washington was a step in the right direction as he ran hard in-between the tackles and most importantly, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been pleased with Mendenhall’s progress through training camp and the preseason.
Tonight, Tomlin wants to give Mendenhall an extended look with the 1st team and wants to see him build off of his performance in Washington.
“We’d like to get an extended look at Rashard whether Willie plays or not,” Tomlin said.
“Just to be a featured runner, a capable guy,” Tomlin said. “To run similarly to how he ran in D.C. I thought he was very decisive. I thought he was downhill. I liked the way he finished runs. He ran violently, if you will. This guy’s had a good camp and a good preseason. We just ask that he continues to do more of the same.”
Mendenhall has 14 carries for 50 yards in two exhibitions.
Sweed likely to see significant minutes with 1st team
With Santonio Holmes expected to sit out tonight’s game, 2nd year wide receiver Limas Sweed will start in his place and likely get significant minutes with the first team.
Sweed has made the tough catches in the preseason but has failed to hold onto some of the easier ones.
Still, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t lost confidence in Sweed.
Rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace will also get some reps with the 1st team.
Owens out; Maybin to make debut
The Buffalo Bills will be without star wide receiver Terrell Owens (turf toe) for tonight’s game. While Owens will be out of action, 1st round pick DE Aaron Maybin (#11 overall, Penn State) will make his debut.
“He’ll play some,” Bills coach Dick Jauron said on Friday. “Is he ready? He’s just probably starting to get that fatigue really from that first week of practice so everybody’s a long way ahead of him football condition-wise. He keeps himself in shape, but football conditioning is different, as you know.”
Photo: David Hague – Inside Pittsburgh Sports.