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Steelers starters to see extended time

| Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connects with running back Chris Rainey during the first quarter of their preseason opener against the Eagles on Aug. 9, 2012, in Philadelphia. (Chaz Palla | Tribune Review)

Ben Roethlisberger couldn't hide his lack of excitement for yet another preseason game, even the most important one of every summer. For Daniel Hrapmann, this might be the game of his life.

The Steelers play Saturday night in Buffalo in the third and most significant of their four preseason games. The starters will play at least until halftime, or far more time than they are likely to get Thursday against Carolina at Heinz Field.

Given that Roethlisberger and the other offensive starters played only a series — albeit a 16-play drive — Aug. 9 in Philadelphia, this game provides a significant chunk of time, even if a veteran like Roethlisberger barely can stifle a yawn at playing yet another game that doesn't count.

“Nothing to me,” Roethlisberger said when asked what preseason game No. 3 means to him. “The only thing that it does is it does give you more time. Because you're playing so much, you have to know what they're doing a little bit and have some (game) plans for certain situations.”

Receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who could get bumped from the starting lineup as soon as holdout Mike Wallace reports, believes the extra playing time will provide a better snapshot of the offense.

“You want to start off and get that rhythm early because you aren't playing that much and you want to get some catches and showcase what you're capable of doing,” Sanders said. “Just to get in a game situation, to go out there in a live situation, helps tremendously.”

The Steelers opened early leads in their first two games, 13-0 against the Eagles and 14-0 against the Colts, only to fall behind after the backups took over. They ended up losing to Philadelphia, 24-23, but beating the Colts, 26-24, on Sunday, when the starters stayed in about one quarter.

Hrapmann, a rookie, might be kicking as much to attract another club's attention as he is to impress the Steelers. He is 5 for 5, although a Colts defender partially blocked a last-minute game-winner Sunday.

Soccer-sized at 5-foot-6 and 164 pounds, Hrapmann wasn't drafted despite going 26 of 31 on field-goal attempts as a junior and 23 of 34 as a senior at Southern Mississippi. His only training camp tryout offer was from the Steelers, who have an incumbent kicker in Shaun Suisham, who is 2 for 2.

“I've always been told that everything you do in the preseason games, everybody (in the NFL) sees,” Hrapmann said. “No matter what your situation is on your team, if something were to not happen, hopefully, you walk out and somebody notices you're doing well.”

During a week in which there has been extra attention paid to special teams — coordinator Al Everest was fired Thursday and replaced by Amos Jones — the same goes for rookie punter Drew Butler. With Jeremy Kapinos (back) unable to punt so far, Butler is averaging 47.5 yards and 41.0 net.

The Bills, 0-2 in the preseason, in part, because they haven't developed a running game, have plenty of Pittsburgh connections .

Former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt is defensive coordinator and assistant head coach. Offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris, a former Pitt assistant, is from Aliquippa. Running back Zach Brown, fullback Dorin Dickerson and linebacker Scott McKillop are former Pitt players under Wannstedt, and guard Kraig Urbik was a third-round pick by the Steelers in 2009.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at arobinson@tribweb.com.

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