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Steelers 2014 roster breakdown: Inside linebackers

Look for the presence of rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier to help boost the game of veteran Lawrence Timmons in 2014.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

As Pittsburgh Steelers training camp is set to begin, Behind the Steel Curtain takes a look at each position battle and how players at those positions are expected to perform.

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers have long been known for their talented linebacking corps, and this year's group is led by spectacular inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. How he can continually get snubbed in the voting for the top players in the league is a mystery to anyone who has seen him play.

Timmons has been a playmaker since he joined the Steelers starting lineup on a full-time basis in 2009, his third NFL season. Now an eighth-year player, Timmons is a superstar. He has recorded more than 90 tackles in each of the past four seasons without missing a game during that stretch. Timmons tallied 126 total tackles with 86 solo stops last fall, three sacks, five pass breakups, two interceptions and one forced fumble. His size and athleticism make him an amazing pass-rusher and run-stopper, but he is equally solid in pass coverage.

However, he still has not been recognized by the Pro Bowl, either. He was an alternate selection last year, but that selection was a joke. Timmons has deserved to be on the original team several times in his career, and he finally could make it this year with the addition of rookie No. 1 pick Ryan Shazier from Ohio State. Shazier's presence in the starting lineup opposite Timmons actually could help Timmons excel even more this season.

Shazier is immensely talented, fast and strong, and he could take some pressure off Timmons and allow him to play at a high level without forcing him to do too much. Larry Foote was a strong leader and run-stopper, but after missing all of last season after an injury in the opening game the Steelers decided to go for another playmaker at inside linebacker and drafted Shazier.

Vince Williams, Terence Garvin, Sean Spence, Kion Wilson and Daniel Molls are the other inside linebackers on the Steelers roster, which makes this group possibly the deepest on the team. Williams, a sixth-round pick in 2013, started 11 of 15 games as a rookie after Foote was injured. He was a solid run-stopper, but he had some lapses in pass coverage and eventually was demoted.

Garvin was a strong special teams player and also had one start. Wilson, now in his fourth season and third NFL team, had two starts last year in seven games played. Molls appears to be a talented first-year player from Toledo, but Spence is the most intriguing player among the inside linebackers.

Spence was the club's third-round pick in 2012, but he missed his entire rookie campaign and all of last season after a severe knee injury during his first preseason. He attempted to come back late last year, but an arm injury delayed his debut until this season. Some would have been devastated, but Spence took the time to continue to rehab his knee. And he finally appears to be ready to make an impact this season.

It won't be known if his knee will hold up to the rigors of an NFL season, but Spence appeared to be ready to give it a shot. Speed was his biggest asset coming out of Miami, so it will be interesting to see if he still has it after a knee surgery and not playing for two years. If Spence makes the club, possibly as a special teams performer, it would be an amazing comeback and certainly a bonus for the Steelers.