Casey Hampton, the Pro Bowl NT and epicenter of the 3-4 run defense could be next, at season’s end, to follow the James Farrior-Aaron Smith veterans exit route. NT Steve McLendon appears to be part of the New Furniture in the remodeled rumpus room of a defense that helped to take the Pittsburgh Steelers to three Super Bowls in five years’ time. When Hampton returns from ACL and elbow procedures, and he’s aiming for the Sept. 9 season opener, he may well thereafter stay in a job-share at that central position.

Hampton is indicative of a team that partly remains in flux. The offseason exits of Farrior, Smith, WR Hines Ward and OG Chris Kemoeatu caused some alterations to what had been a steady lineup for years. Further refurbishing could occur, no thanks to injuries as well.

  • Casey Hampton (NT, 12th year, two-time Pro Bowler, longtime fixture) -- Hampton should still be able to play the run, but McLendon in the opening two preseason games showed an ability Hampton rarely flashed: harassing QBs. The Steelers drafted Ta’amu Alameda in the fourth round to help at NT, and he’s progressing, but there isn’t room for three men in the middle when they barely play two of every three defensive downs. If Hampton ultimately doesn’t play up to his previous level, he may not play much at all in 2012.

  • Max Starks (OT, 9th year, starter in past three Steelers’ Super Bowls) -- The Steelers brought back the 6-8 veteran to man the blind side when second-rounder Mike Adams didn’t seem to be the answer, at least not immediately. If Starks doesn’t hold up after an ACL injury and the constant uncertainty of one-year deals (ever since being franchised three years ago), starting right-tackle Marcus Gilbert would love to move to the blind-side. And then there’s Adams, the understudy. So Starks effectively has a second-year guy and a rookie looking over his shoulder.

  • James Harrison’s health (OLB, 9th year, five-time Pro Bowler and former Defensive Player of the Year) -- One of the toughest guys in the league has undergone, what, four surgeries in the past 18 months? Could his well-toned but 34-year-old body be starting to wear down, despite his late start on stardom? His backup, Jason Worilds (wrist), is recovering, too. So the Steelers are playing now, and could enter the regular season, with third-year man Chris Carter at the valuable right-edge rusher spot. It isn’t so much a bubble watch as a wonder: are the Steelers at that right outside position on a bubble-burst watch?

  • Jeremy Kapinos (P, 5th year, their punter the last half of the previous two seasons) -- The Steelers gave up on Daniel Sepulveda after his four knee surgeries, and Kapinos entered this camp as the incumbent. Could a creaky back cause Kapinos to give way to rookie Drew Butler? This is the son of ex-Bears K Kevin Butler and a man with a 47.5-yard average through two games.

  • Mike Wallace (WR, 4th year, made Pro Bowl last season) -- Despite reports, he isn’t on a 2012 bubble or trade list. But he might well find himself on the bubble for calendar 2013 if he doesn’t come in as expected this weekend, sign his $2.7-million tender and work toward a long-term contract with little fuss and muss and delay. The Steelers' front office historically doesn't appreciate difficult negotiations; the longer his drags on, the shorter his Steelers career may be. 

Follow Chuck Finder on Twitter for real-time updates from Steelers training camp @CBSSportsNFLPIT.