Pittsburgh Steelers: 4 Veterans Who Need to Be Replaced

Jesse FeldContributor IIIFebruary 22, 2012

Pittsburgh Steelers: 4 Veterans Who Need to Be Replaced

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    The tension in Pittsburgh is mounting after having their Super Bowl hopes dashed by the Packers and Broncos in consecutive seasons. To remain the NFL's leader in Super Bowl victories, the Steelers need to replace some pieces that aren't helping them reach their ultimate goal.

    The pressure of staying on top of the NFL is a lot to handle, and saying goodbye to veteran players is a tough but necessary part of the process.

    The Steelers are well aware of their identity, they win by running the ball, controlling the clock and stopping the run.

    Bringing fresh faces into the system can rejuvenate the team and bring them back to a championship level.

James Farrior

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    Farrior has been the quarterback of the perennially strong Steelers defense since arriving in Pittsburgh in 2002. He recorded over 100 tackles in six seasons of his 10 seasons as a Steeler, and had at least 94 in eight.

    Farrior was part of the foundation that brought Pittsburgh two Super Bowl wins and three appearances. He is 37 years old and will be entering his 16th season in the NFL.

    Last season Farrior showed signs of aging with his performance on the field. In each of his last five games he only recorded four tackles or less, including the playoff loss to Denver.

    Pittsburgh does not already have a long-term successor for Farrior, but Stevenson Sylvester could be a good short-term solution. The option Pittsburgh needs to think about is grabbing an inside linebacker in the draft.

    They can find a starter in the first round in Dont'a Hightower or Vontaze Burfict, but if they wait until a later round they can groom a player into the starting role.

Hines Ward

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    Last season Hines Ward became one of only eight players in NFL history to compile 1,000 catches over the course of his career. He was named MVP of Super Bowl XL and is well revered by Steeler Nation.

    Throughout his time in Pittsburgh, Ward brought exactly what the Steelers needed to the field. He caught tough balls, blocked and made big plays for the majority of his career.

    Last season he was still doing what's best for the team, but it was by taking a step back to make room for their group of young talented receivers to grow.

    Ward only had 46 catches for 381 yards in 2011, and the Steelers will most likely use the players already on the roster like Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders to fill the void.

Casey Hampton

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    Along with Farrior, Casey Hampton is a part of why the Steelers' run defense has been so dominant since being in Pittsburgh. Hampton's job is not to compile stats like tackles or sacks, but to instead contain space and eat up blockers.

    By doing this Hampton makes room for the linebackers to swoop in and get all the tackles. That means he is taking on two or more blockers for each play he is in the game. The abuse he receives has taken its toll on the 34 year old.

    The Steelers best option would be to draft Memphis' Dontari Poe in the first round of this year's draft. They lost backup Chris Hoke to retirement, so an addition is needed even if they keep Hampton for yet another season.

Rashard Mendenhall

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    Rashard Mendenhall has not been a complete disappointment for Pittsburgh, but last season he only recorded two 100-yard rushing games. Those two games were against the down-trotted St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars, and he did not reach 80 yards in any of the other 14 games he played.

    These are not the results that the Steelers are looking for out of their star halfback. Mendenhall did average 4.1 yards per carry on his 228 carries, so there is some hope that if they get back to running consistently he will produce.

    He is still vulnerable to losing his job because of the steady running Pittsburgh got from backup Isaac Redman. Redman could be paired up with a free agent running back like Michael Bush, or a draft pick to make a solid rushing duo.