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Scouting report: Pittsburgh Steelers


The Pittsburgh Steelers went 10-6 in 2007, winning the AFC North division. After losing in the playoffs to Jacksonville in the wild-card round, the Steelers are out to improve upon their success from last season.

Mike Tomlin enters his second season as the Steelers head coach after 2007 saw him become just the second coach in team history to post a winning record, win a division title and earn a playoff berth in his inaugural season.


Quarterback: In 2007, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was named to his first Pro Bowl after throwing for 3,154 yards and 32 touchdowns on 204 completions. Roethlisberger has become one of the NFL's most consistent quarterbacks with a 92.5 career passer rating, the best in Steelers history.

Running back: Willie Parker returns as the Steelers' starting running back after breaking his leg in their week 16 win over the St. Louis Rams in 2007. At the time, Parker was leading the NFL in rushing and still managed to rank fourth in the league for the year with 1,316 yards and two touchdowns on 321 carries. The Steelers' first-round draft pick in 2008, Rashard Mendenhall, will steal some carries from Parker this season.

Wide receiver/tight end: In the passing game, wide receiver Hines Ward is entering his 11th season in the NFL. Ward is a four-time Pro Bowler but had a few knee injuries last season. He finished the year with a team-leading 72 receptions for 732 yards and seven touchdowns. Opposite Ward is wide receiver Santonio Holmes, the Steelers' first-round draft pick in 2006 who caught the ball 52 times for a team-high 945 yards and eight touchdowns in 2007. Holmes also had an 18.2 yards-per-reception average, which led the NFL. The Steelers spent a second-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft on Limas Sweed, a wide receiver out of the University of Texas, and expect him to contribute this season. Tight end Heath Miller has started 44 consecutive games dating back to his rookie season and established new career highs in receptions (47), yards (565) and touchdowns (seven) in 2007.

Offensive line: Left tackle Marvel Smith gave a veteran presence to a unit which twice rushed for over 200 yards and finished last season ranked third overall in the NFL with an average of 135.5 rushing yards per game. At left guard is fourth-year player Chris Kemoeatu. Center Justin Hartwigstarted 15 games for the Carolina Panthers last season and was signed by the Steelers this offseason. Seventh-year pro Kendall Simmons has now started 26 consecutive games and seven consecutive playoff games at right guard. At right tackle is Willie Colon, who started all 16 games in first season as a starter last year.


Defensive line: The front line of the Steelers' 3-4 defense is anchored by mammoth nose tackle Casey Hampton, who was the Steelers' first-round draft pick in 2001. He has earned four trips to the Pro Bowl, including last season. Hampton was named to the Steelers' 75th Season All-Time Team during the 2007 season. Defensive ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel bookend the d-line with solid play. Keisel has started every game at right end for the past two seasons and finished 2007 with 49 total tackles and two sacks. Smith was a Pro Bowl selection in 2005.

Linebackers: Linebacker James Farrior led the Steelers with 111 tackles last season and was tied for second on the team with six sacks. Larry Foote joins Farrior in the middle of the linebacking corps, where he has ranked among the team leaders in tackles the past three seasons. Right outside linebacker James Harrison had a breakout year in 2007, earning the Steelers' team MVP award and his first trip to the Pro Bowl. Left outside linebacker Lamar Woodley was selected in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He appeared in 13 contests in 2007, including the Steelers' playoff loss to Jacksonville.

Secondary: The Steelers' secondary is led by four-time Pro Bowler Troy Polamalu, who has developed into one of the NFL's top safeties. Polamalu was taken by the Steelers in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft and registered 74 tackles last season. Joining Polamalu is free safety Ryan Clark, who started six games for the Steelers last season. Cornerbacks Deshea Townsend andIke Taylor round out the Steelers' secondary.


Kicking: Kicker Jeff Reed kicked in all 16 regular-season games for the fifth consecutive season in 2007 and has appeared in 86 straight games since joining the team in 2002. Reed handles all field goal and extra point attempts. Punter Daniel Sepulveda is out with an injury and is being replaced by Mitch Berger.

Returning: Running back Rashard Mendenhallis currently listed as the team's kickoff returner. Mendenhall showed the quick burst and second gear to elude defenders in the open field during his college career at Illinois. Slotted to be the Steelers' kick returner is running back Mewelde Moore, a former Minnesota Viking. Moore holds the Vikings' record with a 10.5-yard career punt return average and is one of only two players in Vikings history to have two career punt return touchdowns.

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