First-team offense plays longer
As promised, the Steelers' first-team offense played longer in Thursday night's exhibition game against Buffalo. The starting offense was on the field for three series against the Bills, after playing only one series in last week's opener against Philadelphia. The first-team offense had no difficulty moving the ball between the 20s but sputtered closer to the goal line on the first two possessions. Following Ben Roethlisberger completions of 13 yards to receiver Santonio Holmes and 19 yards to receiver Hines Ward, the quarterback's short pass over the middle was deflected and intercepted by safety Donte Whitner and returned 11 yards to the Buffalo 33. The Steelers' second series ended at the Buffalo 45. On the Steelers' next series, Roethlisberger and Holmes connected on a 40-yard touchdown bomb that cut Buffalo's lead to 14-7 with 6:26 left in the second quarter.
• New backup quarterback Byron Leftwich entered the game for the first time with 4:12 remaining before halftime. Leftwich's first pass was a 24-yard strike to receiver Nate Washington.
• Running back Willie Parker, who carried three times for 20 yards in the preseason opener, nearly doubled his output with five carries for 14 yards last night. Parker also remained on the field on third down, something he says he wants to do more often this season. Parker also caught a screen pass for four yards in the second quarter.
• Casey Hampton, who came off the physically unable to perform list Sunday, started at nose tackle. Tyrone Carter started in place of Troy Polamalu at strong safety. And Bryant McFadden started at cornerback for Deshea Townsend.
• Polamalu, Townsend (groin), linebacker Mike Humpal (stinger), safety Ryan Mundy (ankle), tight end Cody Boyd (shoulder) and linebacker Keyaron Fox didn't suit up. Fox wasn't listed with an injury entering the game. Polamalu (hamstring) still is on the physically unable to perform list.
• Coach Mike Tomlin experimented with the kick return units. Mewelde Moore and rookie Rashard Mendenhall were back for the first kickoff return. Mendenhall and Carey Davis were deep for the second kickoff return. Willie Reid and Gary Russell lined up for the third kickoff return. Moore handled the Steelers' only punt return in the first half.
3 -- Exhibition games the Steelers have played in Canada. The other two were in Montreal (1969 and '90).
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