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28. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (13-4)

LAST SEASON: Steelers had little trouble rolling to third AFC North title in four years but flamed out in playoffs when Jaguars stunned them for second time in four months Youth Sebastian Aho Jersey , 45-42 in divisional round. Defense led NFL and set franchise record with 57 sacks, but also had trouble getting stops late in season following Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Shazier's spinal injury. Pittsburgh allowed 350 yards and 28 points after Shazier went down. Shazier has already been ruled out for 2018, leaving Steelers thin at inside linebacker. Secondary is being overhauled after veterans Mike Mitchell, William Gay and Robert Golden were cut. Offense finished third in yards and eighth in points but it wasn't enough for coordinator Todd Haley to keep job. Team wasted little time promoting quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner to take over.

THEY NEED: LB, CB, RB, TE.

THEY DON'T NEED: LT, C, DE.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LB Leighton Vander Esch Youth Darnell Nurse Jersey , Boise State; LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama; CB Josh Jackson, Iowa; RB Derrius Guice, LSU.

OUTLOOK: Steelers have leaned on draft heavily to replenish linebacker group, using first-round pick for one in four of last five years. With Shazier out and 2015 first-round pick Bud Dupree's long-term status unknown, it's likely Pittsburgh goes to well again at No. 28 overall. Cornerback would also make sense early, but Steelers could also tip hand about plans for RB Le'Veon Bell and QB Ben Roethlisberger in second and third rounds. Bell has yet to sign franchise tender, will head for 2019 free agency with no new deal. Roethlisberger said after loss to Jacksonville he believes he can play three more years. If Steelers don't believe him, they could take shot at landing successor early. They haven't taken QB before fourth round since grabbing Roethlisberger 11th overall in 2004.

Blake Martinez gathered his fellow inside linebackers together after a tough day at Green Bay Packers practice.

It's difficult to see two key members of the defense go down with injuries on just the fourth day of training camp.

Inside linebacker Jake Ryan Womens Evander Kane Jersey , one of the team's top run defenders, was carted off the field late in practice Monday with an apparent right leg injury. Kentrell Brice, a potential starter at safety, was carted off the field during a special teams drill, though the type of injury was unclear.

"Oh, man. That was bad, man. You hate to see that, especially as a player. That's your brother," safety Josh Jones said when asked about Brice.

Practice ended up being cut short early because of the threat of lightning. The injuries dampened the mood in the locker room.

Back inside Lambeau Field John Gibson Jersey , Martinez gathered the rest of his position group together. Martinez (158) and Ryan (89) led the team in tackles last season.

After third-year pro Martinez and Ryan, who is in his fourth year, rookies fill the inside linebacker depth chart. Martinez called a position meeting to get everyone refocused.

"It just comes down to 'What are we going to do now?'" Martinez said in recounting his message. "Or whatever your mindset is, what are you going to do to get better every day?"

Oren Burks, a third-round draft pick out of Vanderbilt, might play a bigger role if Ryan misses significant time. Burks played inside linebacker in college last season after taking on a hybrid linebacker/safety role as a junior. He played free safety as a sophomore.

The Packers are also making changes on defense after Mike Pettine replaced Dom Capers as coordinator. Martinez said that he'll be checking on the rookies constantly to make sure they are up to speed.

"I know my goals for this season, our team goals for this season and I'm not going to let one injury kind of ruin that for us," he said.

Brice appeared in line to take a starting job at safety following the offseason departure of veteran Morgan Burnett, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent. Brice played six games with three starts last year before going on injured reserve with an ankle injury on Nov. 3. He played in all 16 games with one start as a rookie.

Coach Mike McCarthy likes Brice for his positional versatility Phillip Danault Jersey , a trait that has become more important on defenses to help keep up with expanding passing attacks. The Packers are still deep at safety, where promising second-year player Jones might get more snaps if Brice misses a lot of time.

The defense must move on, as hard as that might be to do after a trying day.

"It's kind of tough. You just do it because it's part of your job. But in the back of your head, it's always there though," said cornerback Demetri Goodson, who came back from a serious knee injury earlier in his career.

Notes: Rookie CB Jaire Alexander picked off QB Aaron Rodgers over the middle during play action drills. The interception came two plays after Rodgers hit tight end Jimmy Graham in stride up the seam on a pretty pass for a big gain. ... S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix intercepted Rodgers during a two-minute drill on a short pass over the middle that was tipped by Martinez. ... RB Aaron Jones hopes to return to practice no later than Thursday. He said he tweaked his hamstring at practice on Saturday.

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Tue Dec 11, 2018 6:37 pm