Linebackers Larry Foote and Lawrence Timmons are set to compete for the starting inside linebacker job next to linebacker James Farrior.
Wide receiver Hines Ward was once ranked among the better receivers in the league, but his stats have been dropping steadily over the last few seasons. At 32, injuries and Ward’s all-out style of play have begun to take their toll.
Coming on strong
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes saw all of his stats improve from his rookie season, and he did it in three fewer games. His 18.1 yards per reception led the NFL, and he quadrupled his touchdowns, catching eight in 2007. Holmes may become the No. 1 receiver as soon as this year.
On the rebound
Defensive end Aaron Smith had his 2007 season cut short by a torn biceps. Without Smith, the team’s defense struggled to stop the run at the end of the season. Smith has been one of the stalwarts in the Steelers defense and should return to his consistent self.
Safety Troy Polamalu has not played a full 16-game season in the past two years. He missed three games in 2006 because of a knee injury and missed five more last season because of abdominal and knee injuries.
Offensive/defensive scheme changes
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