Steelers likely to sit out stars vs. Lions Friday

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Ben Roethlisberger

Latrobe, Pa. – As if it isn’t difficult enough to get a true evaluation of your players during the preseason with opponents largely playing vanilla schemes, the Detroit Lions will have an even more limited opportunity to assess its starting defense Friday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

According to Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers are likely to hold out many of their top players from the game, including the majority of key contributors to the team’s high-powered offense.

“Some other guys that can be generally assumed as they won't participate include Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Maurkice Pouncey, Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams,” Tomlin said before Wednesday’s joint practice. “I’m going to put together a schedule of participation for those guys, but that schedule probably won't be in this preseason game.”

Roethlisberger also sat out Tuesday’s practice with an excused absence, eliminating some valuable reps for the Lions, particularly the team’s young secondary.

Bell and Williams, the dynamic backfield tandem, are a tough assignment for any defense and would have been a good test for Detroit’s front seven.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell rarely shares who he intends to play, or not play, before the team is required to report its active roster 90 minutes prior to kickoff.

Last season, Detroit played its star players sparingly. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, wide receiver Golden Tate and linebacker DeAndre Levy all worked fewer than 10 snaps.

Calvin Johnson was active for that contest, but did not participate.