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5 Most Exciting Pittsburgh Steelers Position Battles to Keep an Eye On

Nick DeWittAnalyst IApril 6, 2012

5 Most Exciting Pittsburgh Steelers Position Battles to Keep an Eye On

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't usually a team in much flux as they head into the season. Starters stick around awhile and position battles are usually few and far between.

    This offseason, however, things are a bit different. There could potentially be a lot of interesting things to watch for once camps get going this summer.

    Here's a look at five you should be keeping an eye on!

Backup Quarterback

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    The Players

    Troy Smith, possibly Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich, possibly a rookie draft choice

     

    Importance

    Ben Roethlisberger has almost never made it through a season fully healthy and has never played every snap of the year. The way he plays the game invites contact and lots of it. With that in mind, having a guy behind him who can step in when needed and be successful is essential.

    The Steelers don't have anyone of consequence on the roster right now unless you count Smith. He doesn't project well as a No. 2. Charlie Batch could return to tutor a rookie for a year or two, but that's probably the best option.

Starting Running Back

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    The Players

    Isaac Redman, Rashard Mendenhall 

     

    Importance

    The Steelers are likely going to re-emphasize the running game this year. That means that they'll need someone trustworthy carrying the ball a majority of the time.

    In Isaac Redman, they seem to have the answer. But there's no guarantee that the job is his. Rashard Mendenhall may not be ready for the season, but he's going to do everything he can to get back into the game quickly. If he somehow does, he could make this interesting.

    This is going to spill over into the backup job, too. Will the team draft a new runner? It's possible. Even if they don't, John Clay, Jonathan Dwyer and Baron Batch provide some interesting backup possibilities.

Starting Inside Linebacker

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    The Players

    Stevenson Sylvester, Larry Foote, a possible draft choice

     

    Importance

    With team leader and starting inside linebacker James Farrior gone, the team will likely be turning to Stevenson Sylvester. He's a promising player entering his third NFL season, but he hasn't proved anything yet in the NFL.

    Larry Foote could get a look if Sylvester doesn't impress, but the more likely move will be to bring in someone in the draft that can compete with Sylvester. Foote isn't young enough to be a full-time starter.

    The Steelers need someone good in there to make their run defense work better than it did last season.

Defensive Tackle

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    The Players

    Casey Hampton, Steve McLendon, possibly a draft choice

     

    Importance

    Defensive tackle, despite not being a starring role in the defense, is an important position. It's the biggest piece of their run defense and a huge part of creating the pass rush. For over a decade, the team has gotten stellar play from Casey Hampton.

    But Hampton may no longer be an every-down guy. The only other player on the roster is young Steve McLendon, but he doesn't seem like a full-time player.

    Complicating things is the fact that Hampton is injured. If he's not ready, the team might be forced to use McLendon or a draft choice there. The plan likely is that Hampton will not play beyond this coming season.

Starting Corner

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    The Players

    Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown

     

    Importance

    William Gay is gone. Before last season, that's what everyone wanted to happen. Now people aren't so sure. But there's nothing more that can be done with that.

    Of the remaining players, Lewis has the most experience. Allen has more upside and was very good as a rookie before he was injured. Brown needs more seasoning, but he could bloom with more chances.

    This will likely be an open competition with Lewis holding the early lead. Dick LeBeau and Carnell Lake need to find someone who can hold the fort opposite Ike Taylor or their defense will fall apart against the pass.

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