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Breakout

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This is the 80th season for the Pittsburgh Steelers and as always, fans have high hopes. The team opened the offseason by cutting some of its most recognizable players in favor of trying to get younger following a playoff loss to the Denver Broncos that abruptly ended their 2011 season.

With training camp underway, expect there to be some surprises. This summer, keep an eye on the following Steelers while they camp at St. Vincent’s in Latrobe.


Jonathan Dwyer, RB - It was not long ago that Dwyer dazzled in camp and made the team’s 53 man roster. The former Georgia Tech Yellowjacket, however, was inactive for every game of the 2010 season except the meaningless regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns, when he rushed for 28 yards in nine attempts. Dwyer played in seven games last season and dazzled in a Week 5 win over the Tennessee Titans, carrying the football 11 times for 107 yards and a touchdown. With Rashard Mendenhall on the Physically Unable to Perform [PUP] list as he recovers from an ACL tear, Isaac Redman is expected to carry the load as starter. Dwyer will have to battle others, including a recovered Batch, rookie Chris Rainey and second-year man John Clay for the backup role. But should he win, he will be a coveted member of the 2012 Steelers.


Cortez Allen/Curtis Brown/Keenan Lewis, CB - One thing is confirmed about the cornerback position: Ike Taylor is a lock to start and rightfully so. Minus the BroPhoto by Charles LeClairencos playoff game, he had his best overall season. The question is who will get the second job and that is where the fun begins. Last season, Allen saw time on special teams and appeared in 15 games, making 15 total tackles. His best games were Weeks 9 and 10 against the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals, when he registered three tackles each game. Brown also will be playing in his second season after playing in 12 games and registering 14 tackles and a forced fumble as a rookie. His best game was Week 4 against the Houston Texans, when he had three tackles and the forced fumble. Keenan Lewis is the most experienced of the thre, entering his fourth season. He appeared in all 16 games last year and started in Week 3 against the Indianapolis Colts. He had 37 total tackles in 2011 and had an interception in Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs.


Steve McLendon, NT – Signed as a rookie free agent by the Steelers on April 27, 2009, McLendon has seen his ups and downs, from Photo by Vincent Pugliesepractice squad stints to being released. He has also been the backup to Casey Hampton, which has allowed him to learn from arguably the NFL's best nose tackle. The downside has been limited playing time, and in 2010 he made no starts and registered two tackles. With a season under his belt, though, McLendon improved and the Steelers rewarded him as he played in 14 games and started for the first time in Week 8 against the Arizona Cardinals. In the game, McLendon registered five tackles in a 32-20 victory. With Hampton still on the PUP list, McLendon entered camp running with the first unit. He will get a challenge from rookie Alameda Ta’amu, however, but experience gives McLendon the edge.


Photo by Charles LeClaireStevenson Sylvester, LB - In his first two seasons, Sylvester was one of the most consistent special teams players, but now with the release of James Farrior, it’s time for this special teamer to shine. Sylvester played in all 16 games as a rookie in 2010 and registered 14 total tackles and a forced fumble. In 2011, he played in 15 games and got a start in Week 8 against the New England Patriots. Sylvester had seven total tackles and forced a fumble in 2011. He’ll will have a lot to prove this season, however many Steelers linebackers before him have made the successful transition from special teams into the starting lineup. There is a good chance that Sly joins that list.

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