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Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Steelers suddenly have another weakness

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Sepulveda

The Pittsburgh Steelers are favorites to once again win the AFC North. But the team suffered a significant blow Tuesday with loss of punter Daniel Sepulveda to a torn ACL in his right knee.

Sepulveda will be out for the season and the Steelers are scrambling to find a viable replacement. They signed four-year journeyman Paul Ernster, who's had an inconsistent career with the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos.

Most teams are not prepared for season-ending injuries with punters because it rarely happens, yet that is the new reality in Pittsburgh. The Steelers' only glaring weakness coming into training camp was a makeshift offensive line, but they now have a second flaw.

The AFC North will be competitive on special teams this year. The Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens have two of the top special teams units in the AFC, particularly with exciting returners Joshua Cribbs and Yamon Figurs, respectively.

The Steelers, even with Sepulveda, were average on special teams in 2007.

There will be a lot of close games played between division rivals this season, and several will be won and lost by field position and special teams. If the Steelers struggle to find an answer at punter this year, it could hurt Pittsburgh in the long run.