Steelers' training camp will test players coming back from injury
Key camp questions
Will Willie Parker be ready to go?
Entering Week 16, Parker was the league's leading rusher, but broke his leg against the Rams. He's recovered and will still be the No. 1 back, but the Steelers drafted Rashard Mendenhall as a backup and also brought in veteran Mwelde Moore as a third-down back to keep the Steelers' ground game near the top of the league in 2008.
With Alan Faneca gone, who will emerge on the offensive line?
The Steelers rely on a strong ground game, and they will need to find a line that works well together to make up for the loss of Faneca, who went to the Jets. They need someone in the group to step up and overachieve. There is a precedent -- last year the Steelers lost Joey Porter, their defensive leader, and his replacement, James Harrison, was named the team's MVP and earned a trip to his first Pro Bowl .
Can the Steelers' secondary improve on a poor second half?
The Steelers have basically the same personnel heading into training camp. The group had the lowest interception total of any team in the league last season and made questionable choices (remember Anthony Smith's guarantee against the Patriots?). Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu missed several games due to injury last year, underwent knee surgery and used a unique rehab regimen in the offseason to try and get healthy.
Key position battle
C Justin Hartwig vs. Sean Mahan: Mahan seemed overwhelmed at times in his first season on a Steelers offensive line that gave up 47 sacks last year, second-most in the league. The team picked up Hartwig in the offseason and, if healthy, he could prove to be a better option.
WR Limas Sweed: Ben Roethlisberger wanted tall receivers -- and he got one. The second-round pick out of Texas is 6-foot-4 and will fit nicely into the rotation of stellar Steelers wideouts.
On the spot
Head Coach Mike Tomlin: Can he avoid a sophomore slump? He's facing arguably the NFL's toughest schedule, and the AFC North is much more competitive this year. Tomlin must fill in the holes from a year ago and have everyone ready to go from the start of training camp.
WR Santonio Holmes: Fantasy owners looking for a breakout wide receiver should look no further than Holmes. The talented wideout from Ohio State is now the top target in the Pittsburgh passing attack and should develop into a reliable No. 2 fantasy option. He’s well worth a middle-round selection
2007 season recap
No momentum heading into postseason: New Head coach Mike Tomlin had a successful first year, as QB Ben Roethlisberger threw for a career-high 32 touchdowns and Pittsburgh captured the AFC North title. The team finished 10-6 but lost four of five down the stretch and finally lost to the Jaguars at home in the first round of the playoffs.