Tomlin won't play to win preseason games

LATROBE, Pa. -- Preseason games are usually about everything but winning.

That apparently hasn't changed for coach Mike Tomlin even though the Pittsburgh Steelers lost all four of their preseason games in 2013 -- and the pattern carried into the regular season when they started 0-4 for the first time since 1968.

"I don't reference last season or any season for that matter," Tomlin said. "This is a different group."

Even if it was the same group as last year it would be hard to draw any correlation between the Steelers going winless in August and then doing the same in September when the outcome of games actually counted.

Injuries at the beginning of last season devastated the Steelers' running game and also cost them their defensive signal-caller in Larry Foote. Repercussions from a handful of injuries, in fact, doomed the Steelers to losses in their first four games as much as anything.

That the Steelers didn't win a game during the preseason had little, if anything, to do with the start that buried them.

It is why Tomlin won't have much interest in what the scoreboard at MetLife Stadium says late Saturday night after the Steelers and New York Giants have played in the first exhibition game for each team.

"I want the group to play fast. I want them to play with the urgency that's required to play winning football in a stadium setting," Tomlin said of what he wants to get out of the Steelers' preseason opener. "We'd like to keep penalties to a minimum. We'd like to play assignment-clean football. At this point we'll see where we are in that regard."

That Tomlin has seemingly little interest in the outcome of preseason games does not mean he dismisses their value.

Far from it, in fact.

"I think the preseason is very necessary to develop regular-season readiness," Tomlin said, "and the only way to do that is to play. I'm always a healthy guy play type of guy."

Tomlin hasn't ruled out anyone for Saturday night even though a handful of Steelers players, including rookie inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, are questionable because of injuries.

Shazier is not practing again Thursday and he has been out since limping off the field Sunday with a right knee injury.