Five Questions Needing Answers at Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp

Brian CarsonCorrespondent IJuly 29, 2009

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Running back Willie Parker #39 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Steelers won 27-23.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

All NFL teams have questions they need to answer during training camp, even a defending Super Bowl champion with 20 of 22 starters returning.

The Pittsburgh Steelers enter camp in great shape with a capable front office, solid coaching staff, and a perfect mix of veterans and youngsters on the roster.

The Steelers are in a better position than most defending champs of the past, but that doesn't mean they don't have some issues.

As training camp opens on Friday, July 31, at St. Vincent's College in Latrobe, here are five questions Mike Tomlin and company need answers to if they hope to repeat and grab hold of ring No. 7.


1. Will the team be distracted by the impending Ben Roethlisberger civil suit?

The short answer is no.

This is a veteran team composed of leaders who've captured two world titles in four years. These accusations will have zero effect on a team like Pittsburgh.

Besides, Tomlin has the personality type that won't allow for distractions to bother his team and the goals he's set.


2. Can Big Ben stay healthy and off his back in 2009?

For Pittsburgh to get back to the Super Bowl, Roethlisberger must stay healthy. If he goes down, it could be lights out to the season.

The responsibility of keeping Big Ben upright falls to the offensive line, a unit that gave up 58 sacks last season, including the playoffs.

All five starters return to a unit that did play better towards the end of the season and throughout the playoffs. The addition of rookie Kraig Urbik, who will challenge Darnell Stapleton for the right guard spot, could make this line even stronger.


3. Who will emerge as the No. 3 receiver?

The Steelers are hoping that 2008 second-round pick, Limas Sweed, will fill the role vacated when Nate Washington signed with Tennessee in free agency.

Sweed struggled to learn the offense, but that happens to most rookie wideouts. The Texas product has size, speed, and good hands, but needs to improve his route running. Another year in the system should see a marked improvement.

If Sweed struggles, look for veteran Shaun McDonald or rookie speedster Mike Wallace to get a chance. If both falter, tight ends Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth will be asked to produce even more in 2009.


4. Can Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall bounce back from injuries?

When healthy, the Steelers have a nice three-headed backfield with Parker, Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore.

Last season, staying healthy was a big problem.

Parker went down after 11 games, Mendenhall replaced him and proceeded to follow suit. Moore took over and finished out the regular season. The result was a Steelers ground game that fell to 23rd in the league.

The good news: everyone is healthy and now the Steelers have a fourth head in the form of Frank "The Tank" Summers, a bruising back from UNLV. Look for the Pittsburgh ground game to return to form in 2009.

5. Is William Gay the man at corner?

The Steelers lost only two starters on defense in free agency—CB Bryant McFadden and ILB Larry Foote. Both were let go by choice.

Foote was replaced by emerging Lawrence Timmons and McFadden's spot at right corner will be taken by Gay, entering his third season with Pittsburgh.

Gay started four games last season and looked the part when given the chance. The show is his now and he must perform at a high level. Rest assured, opposing offenses will focus on him until he proves his worth.


As the Steelers head to training camp most of these questions will be answered. The important thing to remember is as long as the Steelers have Roethlisberger and a Dick LeBeau-led defense, the Super Bowl is always within their grasp.