Steelers coach Mike Tomlin would not commit to an exact number, but all the starters will play for an extended period of time in the third preseason game against the Eagles Thursday night in Philadelphia.
In the past, Tomlin has played his starters for a half and sometimes more in the third preseason game. Some starters might not play in the final preseason game next week against the Carolina Panthers.
“You can assume it will be more than they’ve played in the previous games,” Tomlin said. “It’s just a natural part of the process. You like to mock this week up and have it simulate a regular week in a lot of ways, but with it being a short week it won’t be a complete mock week.
“We won’t have a complete comprehensive game plan, but it will be a nice step for us. We’re excited about it, particularly some of the challenges the Philadelphia Eagles present with the no-huddle and up-tempo pace, and they’re a 4-3 defense. They’ll give us a lot of looks.”
A healthy lineup
Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones returned to practice Monday and Tuesday, which means the Steelers are likely to have all their starters in place for a preseason game for the first time this summer.
Jones missed the game against the Buffalo Bills last week with a groin injury and rookie first-round pick Ryan Shazier missed the first game against the New York Giants with a knee injury.
Several reserves will not play. Offensive lineman Cody Wallace (finger), tight end Eric Waters (concussion), cornerback Shaquille Richardson (knee), linebacker Jordan Zumwalt (groin) and long snapper Greg Warren (knee) have been ruled out.
Safety Will Allen, fullback/tight end Will Johnson, running back Tauren Poole and cornerback Devin Smith might be able to play. All four have been dealing with hamstring injuries.
Tomlin said it is approaching “witching hour” for players with injuries who are vying for roster spots.
“That’s the unfortunate reality,” Tomlin said.
The Steelers must cut their roster to 75 players by Tuesday and 53 after the final preseason game against the Panthers.
“We’re getting to the meat of this thing,” Tomlin said. “If guys are going to make a move, it’s kind of now or never. I like that feeling of urgency in the guys as we prepare this week. It’s creating a good competitive environment as we continue to team-build.”
Shazier had lapses
Shazier made 11 tackles and had an interception in his first game action, but there were plenty of mistakes as well, according to Tomlin.
“It wasn’t hard to find lapses in performance,” he said. “They had a third-and-27 that they got 24 yards and kicked a field goal. That was his coverage. I could go on, but not in an effort to beat him up. It’s the reality of this process.
“He has to keep a humble, no-nonsense approach. To this point, he has, and I hope that continues.”
Pressure on Jones
Third-string quarterback Landry Jones could be playing for a roster spot in the final two weeks of training camp. The Steelers could elect to keep only two quarterbacks this season and place Jones on the practice squad.
He has struggled since being drafted in the fourth round last year. In his most recent outing against the Bills, he was 2 for 5 and threw an interception.
“He didn’t have a good performance in the last outing, and that’s evident,” Tomlin said. “I’m looking for a rebound week from him.”
The more the merrier
The NFL announced practice squads for teams will grow from eight to 10 for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The league will revisit the rule after the 2015 season.
All NFL teams must cut down to 53-man rosters by Tuesday. After rosters are set, teams can then sign players to their practice squads.
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1.