6:30 p.m.: If the players are using this as a simulation of a regular-season game, then, dadgummit, we ought to do the same.
6:31 p.m.: Oops, forgot the binoculars. That's what exhibitions are for, right? Working out the bugs.
6:32 p.m.: Best as these naked eyes can tell, Jeff Reed is dressed but doing nothing more than warming up his vocal chords. Piotr Czech, an alum of Wagner College (or, in his old-school case, would it be pronounced Vahg-nurr?), will handle the kicking chores tonight while Reed rests a leg he hurt slightly by stepping in a hole at Washington a week ago. Reed, who just took three soft practice swings with his right leg and stretching gently, is ready in case of emergency. These team needs a Chad Ochocinco who can kick.
Nah. This guy's too much fun.
6:44 p.m.: Inactives for the evening -- or, if nothing else, hurt or injured fellas officially getting the night off -- include these guys in street clothes (gold T's and black shorts): receiver Santonio Holmes (back), halfback Willie Parker (hamstring), fullback Frank "The Tank" Summers (hamstring), defensive linemen Nick Eason (unknown paranthetical reason) and Steve McLendon (elbow). They joined the previously pronounced-out players: quarterback Dennis Dixon (shoulder. . . which left a sling, so it must be improving), tight end Sean McHugh (knee arthroscopy) and guard Darnell Stapleton (knee -- though he maintains he aims to return by camp's close).
For one thing, that means a lot of work for a few running backs: Rashard Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore (in his first game this preseason), Carey Davis, Isaac Redman, Justin Vincent.
7:42 p.m.: Limas Sweed started for Holmes, though the Steelers' offense opened the game in a two-tight-end set, and Mendenhall for Parker. Speaking of Mendenhall, the play after a lovely, crowd-stirring 12-yard run, he fumbled away the ball to Buffalo. Didn't Hines Ward set up the bounty this time a year ago for a fumbling Mendenhall? Might be time for that South Side monetary dare. The next series, he wasn't exactly hitting the holes with speed and fury, either, huh?
8:04 p.m.: Some nice blocking by the line to spring Mendenhall a couple of times. The Steelers reach the Buffalo 33. End of the first quarter.
8:11 p.m.: Ben Roethlisberger looks rather sharp. Completed eight of his first nine for 80 yards, picked his targets deftly and picked apart the Buffalo secondary. Didja catch him turn his head and look behind him to check out the Bills' pass rush. . . which the line held off until third-down in the red zone, where Penn State's pass-rusher extraordinaire Aaron Maybin decked him. Czech, 34-yard field-goal attempt good. Steelers, 3-0. Drive: 13 plays, 49 yards, 7:32.
8:20 p.m.: Shouldn't James Farrior save those plays for the regular season? After all, that's on tape now, as Mike Tomlin likes to say. Everybody can see it now. Two plays from scrimmage, two scores. Steelers, 10-0. Drive: one 22-yard interception, hardly no time at all.
8:44 p.m.: Interesting to note, as Vin Scully says, that Mendenhall was part of the goalline offense, and not Isaac "Red-Zone" Redman. Hey, rookie tight end David Johnson -- with Carey Davis suffering an ankle injury earlier and sidelined for the night, so the club reported -- lined up at fullback in front of him. And, with the offense motoring nicely downfield on the pass, the Steelers set up Mendenhall's untouched touchdown run of 4 yards just 31 seconds before halftime because of the threat of the throw. And should Mendenhall be gesticulating like that on his way into the end zone? Steelers, 17-0. Drive: 13 plays, 87 yards, 6:17. That's a regular-season drive.
9:04 p.m.: For the first time, Czech had a kickoff -- even though he booted it 68 yards to the 2 -- returned beyond the 20. . . all the way to the 31. Still and all, this big kicker (6-5, 210) could easily get a look, if not a job, by showing a leg that sturdy.
9:30 p.m.: After a Bills defender knifed through and decked a slow-moving Redman, the free-agent from Bowie State certainly has shown some speed, some moves, some shake on the past couple of plays. That ought to please Tomlin, who had a little chat with Redman Thursday about showing more than goal-line ability if he hoped to make the team. He heard, all right.
Hmmm, the first-team defense is still in starting the second half.
9:12 p.m.: It's second-teamer time. As far as simulations go for the regulars, 17-0 doesn't look too bad. Czech from 40 faded right, no good.
9:40 p.m.: Charlie Batch is 7 of 9 for 79 yards -- and those two incompletions should've been caught. Dallas Baker could've given him a touchdown. (Though am I the only one to detect a little push in the back by the Buffalo defender on that one?) And Brandon Williams could've snagged that deep ball down the middle. Just the same, Batch and Roethlisberger are a combined 22 for 28 for 247 yards. Impressive.
9:58 p.m.: Even before Joe Burnett blocked that Rian Lindell field-goal attempt, the rookie cornerback-returner looked to have a roster spot sewn up. The more you can do, ya know? As far as rookies and newcomers, Burnett, first-round pick Ziggy Hood (like he wouldn't make the club) and certainly Stefan Logan appear to be roster locks from their play tonight and previously. Redman tonight made a pretty good case to join that group, too. Receiver Mike Wallace, guard Kraig Urbik and camp splash Ramon Foster, a free-agent offensive tackle, also have made strong cases for themselves. Here's a practice star many onlookers wonder how he would look in extended game action: free-agent receiver Tyler Grisham never seems to drop anything thrown in his direction at St. Vincents College or the South Side. What about Heinz Field or. . . ?
10:06 p.m.: First preseason shutout in 35 such games, since 2001 when the Steelers put a 20-0 pasting on. . . Buffalo right here in Heinz Field. Eight first downs for Buffalo, but half of those on the Bills' final drive. Doubly impressive. On to Carolina. Eleven days until Tennessee.