(ALLEN PARK) -- While head coach Bill Cowher isn't likely to play his starters for more than a quarter or two in the preseason opener between the Lions and the Steelers this Saturday (12:30pm Ford Field, Detroit), the Lions couldn't have selected a much more formidable team to face than the playoff tested Steelers.
The Steelers offense features a punishing ground game behind running backs Jerome Bettis and Amos Zereoue that will test Detroit's front four unit of James Hall, Cory Redding, Shaun Rogers and Robert Porcher.
"We're starting to come together in the last few days," said Steelers guard Alan Faneca of the Steelers offensive line. Former Lions guard Jeff Hartings has struggled though, to be a productive part of the unit. Since leaving Detroit, Hartings has suffered with knee problems he suffered in the season opener a year ago, to the point where he even hinted at retirement according to SteelCitySports.com.
Pittsburgh has jettisoned longtime starter Kordell Stewart, now with the Chicago Bears and will run former XFL star Tommy Maddox out as their starter. Former Lion Charlie Batch is the backup and will likely see considerable time against his old mates on Saturday. Former Indiana University quarterback Antwaan Randle-El could also get some time behind center.
Last year, after Pittsburgh spoiled Detroit's inaugural contest in Ford Field, a 34-22 defeat of Detroit, Batch couldn't hide his contempt for Lions president Matt Millen and challenged the writers and fans to hold Millen accountable for the Lions dismal record of 5-24 over the past two seasons.
"I was here for the groundbreaking ceremony and I always thought I would be here with the Lions when this place opened up," Batch said at the time. "And the funny thing is, I was here for the opening, just not in a Lions uniform."
Batch is part of a formidable contingent of ex-Lions in Pittsburgh including former vice-president of personnel Ron Hughes, former pro personnel director Kevin Colbert linebacker Clint Kriewaldt and Hartings.
Detroit hopes to keep the Steelers defensive off balance with a sharpened version of their West Coast Offense. Second-year quarterback Joey Harrington will likely see just a quarter and a half of action before giving way to third-year veteran Mike McMahon.
Detroit would like to show off rookie first round pick Charles Rogers, who may get his first taste of live NFL action. Rogers, however, is still recovering from a dislocated ring finger and his status is still uknown.
"That is the trainers' decision and that is the coach's decision," Rogers said. "All I can do is my part and come out here and participate and do as much as I can."