San Francisco 49ers: 10 Players Who Need to Step Up in 2012

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San Francisco 49ers: 10 Players Who Need to Step Up in 2012
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Head coach Jim Harbaugh turned the 49ers into a contender

The San Francisco 49ers are coming off an outstanding 2011 season, which saw them go 13-3. They came within a couple of botched punts of playing in the Super Bowl.

As we now look towards the 2012 season, the 49ers will need continued improvement to meet their goal of the Super Bowl. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has sought competition at each position and has stocked his roster to a point where the competition for jobs will be intense.

The schedule will be much tougher this year, and it's conceivable that the 49ers will have a record that pales in comparison to 2011, even though they are much improved. Nevertheless, the 49ers should be the class of the NFC West and are well positioned for their second consecutive division title.

In order for the 49ers to take the next step forward, the players who played at a Pro Bowl level in 2011 must continue to do so. In addition, there are several players who need to improve and step up in 2012.

Let's take a look at those players who I believe need to take the next positive step in their careers. I have purposely omitted the 49ers players who made the Pro Bowl in 2011, as they obviously stepped up last year and simply need to continue to play at a high level.

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