Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Thursday his starters will play the first half and possibly more in the third preseason game Saturday night at Buffalo.
Two of those starters are coming back from injuries and will get their first extended time with the first-team offense.
Offensive lineman Max Starks will get his first opportunity to play in a game this preseason. Starks, who had offseason knee surgery, spent the first few weeks of training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list. He has worked with the first-team offense this week and will take over for rookie Mike Adams at left tackle.
Also returning from injury is starting running back Isaac Redman, who went through a full week of practice after injuring his hip in the first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Redman would like to get as many repetitions as possible because the injury limited him last week.
"I'm anxious to get out there," Redman said. "I want to get out there and play and give it my all."
Only four players officially have been ruled out for the Buffalo game -- injured linebackers James Harrison and Stevenson Sylvester and running backs Jason Ford and Rashard Mendenhall. Nose tackle Casey Hampton, who came off the PUP list last week, will make the trip, but Tomlin said it is unlikely he will play.
It's likely that other players will be ruled out by Saturday, but Tomlin was keeping the door open for some of them to play.
Tomlin said quarterbacks Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich will play in the second half in relief of Ben Roethlisberger. Free agent Jerrod Johnson is not expected to play.
This was the first week back at the South Side facility after three weeks of training camp in Latrobe, and Tomlin used the week to simulate a regular game week.
"It was a good mock in-season week for us to simulate what the opening week will be like for us," Tomlin said.
"It's good that this game is on the road because we start the regular season on the road. All the ingredients are there for us to improve and show what we're capable of."
The Steelers play their final preseason game Thursday against Carolina at Heinz Field and will practice only Monday and Tuesday.
Rookie receiver David Gilreath has performed well throughout training camp and the first two preseason contests, but Tomlin said there still is time for others to push him for the final roster spot among receivers.
"He's a good short area, quickness guy," Tomlin said of Gilreath. "He's been consistent. He's shown a little physical and mental toughness. He represented himself well last week. But we're just at the turn here. We've played two games. We have two more to play. Guys like him and Toney Clemons and Marquise Maze and others will have an opportunity to state a case for themselves."