Steelers-Bills primer

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Buffalo Bills Thursday night in Toronto in the second preseason game for both teams.

Here are some things to look for from the Steelers' perspective:

  • The biggest question going into the game is if Pittsburgh's Justin Hartwig can solidify the starting job at center. The Steelers signed Hartwig from the Carolina Panthers to take the job from Sean Mahan, who struggled last season. So far Hartwig hasn't impressed enough to win the job outright through three weeks of training camp and one preseason game. Hartwig could do himself and Pittsburgh's coaching staff a favor if he played well against Buffalo.

  • The Steelers' first-team defense struggled in limited playing time last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Most of the veterans shrugged off the performance, because they played about a quarter of football. But the NFL's top-ranked unit from 2007 will be on the field longer Thursday and needs to start rounding into form.

  • Watch closely to see if rookie Rashard Mendenhall continues to improve. The tailback had a stellar first preseason game that saw him gain 34 yards rushing on seven carries, in addition to returning a kickoff for 28 yards. Continued improvement is key if Mendenhall is going to make significant contributions in the regular season.

  • Let's see if starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger airs it out more against Buffalo. Roethlisberger played just one drive in the preseason opener and completed 2 of 2 passes for 38 yards and a touchdown. The Steelers are very protective of Roethlisberger, as they should be. But he's looked sharp in camp and probably wants a little more game action.

  • The No. 3 receiver job is still open between rookie Limas Sweed and Nate Washington. Sweed led the team with three catches for 23 yards last week, while Washington didn't record a reception. Tonight is a big game for both players.