A defending Super Bowl champion usually doesn't have any serious holes to plug come summer camp. The world champion Pittsburgh Steelers are no different.
The roster is loaded with veteran talent and few holes need plugged up. Even so, there are some position battles and rookies worth watching as OTAs begin and training camp looms.
The biggest fight this off-season is at right corner. Bryant McFadden left via free agency to Arizona, and a handful of veterans will battle to take his vacated starting spot.
Former starter Deshea Townsend is the leader on the depth chart, but he'll be pressed by Fernando Bryant, William Gay, and free agent acquisition Keiwan Ratliff. Rookies Joe Burnett (Central Florida) and Keenan Lewis (Oregon State) were brought in to infuse the secondary with a much needed youth injection.
Staying on the defensive side of the ball, defensive end Brett Keisel is in the final year of his contract, so look for first-round pick Evander "Ziggy" Hood to challenge for Keisel's starting job. The Steelers don't like to pay big money for older veterans and the former BYU Cougar could be on his way out.
Hood (6-3, 303) was a one-gap interior tackle at Missouri, but defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will use him as a 3-4 end. Hood is athletic with decent strength and movement and will be given time to learn behind a veteran defensive front. Don't be surprised if he's in the starting lineup before the season ends.
Look for rookie guard Kraig Urbik to push starting right guard Darnell Stapleton during camp. Stapleton had a decent rookie season, but Urbik is a road grader at 6-5, 323 pounds and could be in the starting lineup on opening day.
Mewelde Moore and Rashard Mendenhall will battle to be the number two RB. Mendenhall missed most of his rookie year to injury and Moore had a decent season, moving from No. 3 to starter, after Willie Parker and Mendenhall both went down.
Pittsburgh fans need to keep an eye on Frank "The Tank" Summers.
The UNLV star is a tailback with a fullback body, a mini-bus if you will. Summers stands 5-10 and weighs 245 pounds. He's a power back that knows one direction - forward. He's the perfect Steeler back who will be very dangerous in short yardage and goal line situations.
Another starting battle will be at punter. The Steelers released Mitch Berger, who was inconsistent last season. Daniel Sepulveda missed all of 2008, but he's back healthy and ready to compete with Dirk Johnson, who punted for the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals in 2008.
A possible breakout player to watch is second-year linebacker Bruce Davis. The former UCLA All-American is a natural pass rusher who was a major force in college. After some seasoning in the LeBeau defense, look for Davis to emerge as a situational pass rusher in 2009.
Rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace is a speedster who could factor in a big way on special teams.
The sign of a solid team is depth strength throughout the roster. As the 2009 season closes in, the Steelers are loaded with talent and ready to keep the Lombardi Trophy in Pittsburgh for another year.