Tomlin breaks down some roster battles

Heading into their third preseason game Saturday against Buffalo, the Steelers have some roster spots up for grabs. Head coach Mike Tomlin gave some insight into those positions Thursday.

Stefan Logan took a big step last week toward winning the return man job for the Pittsburgh Steelers when he averaged nearly 40 yards per kickoff return and 12 yards per punt return in a preseason game at Washington.

But head coach Mike Tomlin wants to see him do it again before he's ready to make any pronouncements.

Tomlin said Thursday that Logan will get another opportunity to highlight his abilities when the Steelers host the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field.

"I think that Stefan has gotten our attention and he deserves an opportunity to be seen again," said Tomlin. "But also looking at this game, we're going to give some other guys the opportunity as well. In the first half in the kickoff game, you're going to see Mike Wallace returning kickoffs. Hopefully there won't be very many of them, if you know what I mean. … Mewelde Moore may return a punt or two. Other than that, you'll see No. 41, Stefan Logan."

Rookie Joe Burnett, a fifth-round draft pick, has apparently eliminated himself from consideration after fumbling one punt and muffing another in the first two preseason games.

While Tomlin wasn't ready to proclaim Logan his return man just yet, he did say that Trai Essex has nailed down the starting right guard position, at least in part thanks to a knee injury to incumbent starter Darnell Stapleton.

"I really hadn't considered the possibility of what will happen when Darnell comes back," said Tomlin of Stapleton, who had arthroscopic knee surgery three weeks ago. "I've kind of got tunnel vision. At this time (Trai) is our right guard when we send our first unit out there and I'm sure he's of that mentality."

Tomlin also discussed the team's running back situation, saying that he had talked with rookie Isaac Redman earlier in the day about making the most of his opportunities. After being impressive in goal-line drills and scoring a pair of short-yardage touchdowns in the team's first preseason game, Redman, an undrafted rookie, saw little playing time against Washington.

Many felt Redman was the front-runner to be the team's goal-line back, but Tomlin said there's more involved.

"A lot of times those roles are determined by other things, to be honest with you. Is a guy good enough to make the 53? Is he capable of doing other things?" Tomlin said. "A lot of times a guy gets an opportunity because he's a capable special teams player. That's not only what gets him on the 53, but gets him a game-day hat. Gary Russell was able to get an opportunity to do those things in the past because he was a reliable special teams player and we were able to get him on the 53 and get him in a game-day helmet.

"I would imagine that if our goal-line backer is anybody other than Rashard Mendenhall or Willie Parker, it will be because he's capable of doing some other things that put him in a helmet."

The starters – including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who missed last week's game with a foot injury – will play at least a half against the Bills with some notable exceptions.

Tomlin declared quarterback Dennis Dixon (shoulder), tight end Sean McHugh (knee) and Stapleton (knee) as out. Running back Willie Parker (hamstring), wide receiver Santonio Holmes (back) and placekicker Jeff Reed (ankle) are questionable along with rookies Steve McClendon (elbow) and running back Frank Summers, who also missed last week's game.

Reed stepped in a hole last week and slightly sprained his ankle, while Holmes took a helmet to the back against Washington.

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