Camp Countdown: Expectations and concerns

As the Steelers prepare to head to Saint Vincent College for training camp, we are taking a look back at training camp from the Steelers Super Bowl seasons. Today's spotlight is the 2008 training camp.

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In just his second season at the helm, Coach Mike Tomlin went into the Steelers 2008 training camp at Saint Vincent College with a strong level of excitement, loving the challenges that were ahead of him.

"I love football. I love this process," said Tomlin as the team reported for camp. "I love going to camp. I love team building, readying ourselves to pursue our goals. I am extremely excited. If I had to characterize it, I would say no more excited or no less excited than a year ago."

Coming off the 2007 season when the team won the AFC North, although lost in the Wild Card playoff round, there were expectations but also concerns for the black and gold, concerns Tomlin was well aware of.

"There will be a lot of issues, and that is what training camp is about," said Tomlin. "I think one of the things that I am always conscious about is that I never try to tell a story. I always try to let the story unfold and call it as I see it. That is what I intend to do this year as well."

The team went into camp with changes on the offensive line, an aging defensive line and searching for a returner. But there was plenty of competition for roster spots as camp opened, including several on that offensive line.

Chris Kemoeatu replaced Alan Faneca, the seven-time Pro Bowl guard. Going into the season Kemoeatu had only started two games in three years. Justin Hartwig, who was signed in the offseason, won the camp battle to start at center over Sean Mahan. And Willie Colon and Max Starks battled it out at right tackle.

Take a look at Steelers Training Camp through the years

Another interesting position was running back, where Willie Parker, who went undrafted in 2004, was prepping to work with No. 1 pick Rashard Mendenhall as a one-two punch for the offense.

There were also other players just battling for a spot on the roster, something Tomlin always has welcomed. 

"One of the things we've learned around here and I've learned in this business is that if a man has a helmet and is invited to camp, he has an opportunity," said Tomlin.

One player who didn't have to worry about a roster spot was safety Troy Polamalu, even though he didn't see much action early on. Polamalu opened camp on the Physically Unable to Perform List with a hamstring injury.

"It's always miserable being injured," said Polamalu.

The good news for the 2008 Steelers, though, is the injury wasn't serious, and it would be Polamalu's interception return for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game that would send the Steelers to Super Bowl XLIII, where they defeated the Arizona Cardinals for their sixth Lombardi Trophy.

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