Steelers will pick higher in this year's draft
• The Steelers will have the 18th overall pick in this year's NFL draft, which will be held in late April. It is their highest pick since 2007 when they took linebacker Lawrence Timmons with the 15th overall pick. The Steelers have been accustomed to picking near the bottom of the first round of the draft because of their sustained success. They have done well with their first-round picks over the last 10 years. Among the players the Steelers have taken with their initial pick of the draft are nose tackle Casey Hampton (2001), strong safety Troy Polamalu (2003) quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (2004) and wide receiver Santonio Holmes (2006).
• Holmes said wide receiver Limas Sweed visited practice last week and appeared to be in good spirits. The Steelers placed Sweed on the reserve/non-football illness list on Dec. 21. Coach Mike Tomlin has declined to disclose Sweed's illness. Sweed, a second-round draft pick in 2008, has been a major disappointment. He had just one catch for five yards this season and played sparingly after dropping a touchdown pass against the Bengals in late September.
"I definitely think he's going to be more motivated to come back this year," Holmes said, "and prove to a lot of people that he's capable of being one of those receivers out there with us, making plays and to prove he's going to be a productive receiver in the NFL one day."
• Center Justin Hartwig said he hopes offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and offensive line coach Larry Zierlein return next season. "I think (being ranked) seventh offensively in the NFL isn't too bad," Hartwig said. The Steelers finished in the NFL in total offense with 371.3 yards per game.