Secondary List of Primary Concerns

The normal worries are still there, but Mike Prisuta is more concerned with a couple of Steelers veterans this training camp.

The critical storylines heading into the Steelers' annual trip to St. Vincent and the regular season to follow are the offensive line and Troy Polamalu.

Aren't they always?

The line has to come together and Troy has to stay healthy. But more than that has to happen for the Steelers to shake their 8-8 malaise and return to the position of prominence they've become so accustomed to occupying over the years.

LaMarr Woodley and Emmanuel Sanders will have a great deal to do with that.

And neither player responding the way the Steelers will need him to is a given.

Woodley has a track record, but he's also coming off a season in which he produced just 4 sacks. He'd averaged 11 as a starter over the previous four campaigns.

It started to get away from Woodley early in 2012, when a hamstring injury suffered in Week Four against Philadelphia forced him to miss a Week Five assignment at Tennessee. Woodley had 2 sacks in 3 games prior to the Eagles affair.

From that point on he missed more games (three) than he managed sacks (two). The hamstring was a problem.But a bigger one, according to Woodley at the conclusion of OTAs, was a high-ankle sprain.

"You never bounce back 100 percent off of that," Woodley insisted. "You knew you weren't 100 percent out there. You knew you're out here and the things you're good at doing, you can't do."

Woodley maintains his weight wasn't a factor in either injury, even though a teammate was anonymously quoted in the offseason as claiming Woodley "wasn't in shape."

"Weight is never an issue when your numbers are high," Woodley countered.

There's no disputing what he means to the Steelers' defense, particularly by Woodley himself.

"I've always felt a responsibility," he said. "Every moment that I step on a football field I always feel like I'm a key."

Woodley will have to be that this year with the picture at outside linebacker complicated by James Harrison's departure.

"When both outside linebackers are being effective it makes it hard for offenses," Woodley said. "When me and Harrison were in there you didn't know who to block. We were (each) getting double-digit sacks."

Last season they combined for double-digit sacks (10).

"When I was hurt, he didn't play well," Woodley said. "When he was hurt, I didn't play well."

Woodley will have to play a lot better at left outside linebacker to give whoever winds up staring at right outside linebacker a fighting chance.

Sanders, meanwhile, is going to have to do a lot more than move into Mike Wallace's old locker at Heinz Field to replace Wallace as the starting receiver opposite Antonio Brown. Sanders is going to have to stay healthy and stay in rhythm, two things he hasn't been able to do very often at the same time in his three-year Steelers career.

"The second year was the only year I got hurt," Sanders insisted. "People want to attach that health ‘bug' on me but it was just one year of two broken feet."

As for the rhythm thing, "I've had an opportunity for a little bit but as a starter, no, I haven't had the opportunity," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Based on what Sanders described as "a nice little run" replacing a then-injured Brown at mid-season last season, Sanders is anticipating "big plays" and "production" this time around.

The Steelers will need both. If they get less from Woodley or Sanders, even consistent, cohesive offensive line play and 16 games out of Polamalu might not be enough.


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