As America continues to celebrate Independence Day this weekend, it is time to stop, remember, and appreciate those who have served our country and protected our freedom. Too often, those men and women who defend our freedom are overlooked and forgotten, especially when comparing it to the appreciation and gratitude fans show their favorite sports team. To those men and women who dedicate their lives to serving our country, we say Thank You!Pittsburgh Steelers will have a different look up front on their defense this upcoming season. Gone are former starters Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood, and the team will have at least one new starter as they enter the 2014 campaign. Steve McLendon, who was signed to a multi-year contract in 2013 will return to the nose tackle position. While Mclendon is not the same space-eater that Hampton was, he is more athletic and should be more disruptive, especially in the passing game.
Cameron Heyward will look to build upon his breakout 2013 and look to continue his development into one of the better 3-4 ends in the game. The job opposite Heyward will likely come down to a battle between free agent signee Cam Thomas and rookie second round selection Stephon Tuitt. At this point, Tuitt would appear to have a solid chance to start if he can pick up the subtleties of the position, as Thomas has the position flexibility to become a swingman like Al Woods in 2013.
One big training camp battle will be to see who becomes the primary back up to McLendon in the middle. While Thomas would likely spell him on game days, Hebron Fangupo or rookie nose tackle Daniel McCullers would likely be the long term solution. McCullers may have the inside track as he is younger and has more upside than Fangupo, although it is possible (but unlikely) they could both end up on the roster.
Behind Heyward and Tuitt, there will be an interesting battle. 2013 seventh round selection Nick Williams, who missed all of his rookie season with a knee injury, will face competition from 2013 camp surprise Brian Arnfelt and 2014 undrafted rookie free agent Josh Mauro (Stanford) in what should be an entertaining competition.
The Steelers will likely keep seven defensive linemen as they enter the regular season, although that number could dip to six if they need roster help at other positions. Here are the players that should make up that group.
Over the next few weeks, Steelers101 will break down every position, highlight training camp battles and eventually have the complete 53-man roster as we see it today.
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