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Aaron Smith - Aaron Smith is a spectacular 3-4 defensive end, the best in the game, and should have gone to the Pro Bowl this year. He was the biggest snub off this year's Steelers team.
He is incredible against the run and pushes the pocket on passing downs which clears space for the linebackers to get their sacks if not chasing the quarterback into the welcoming arms of those same linebackers.
If there was a vote for most undervalued member of the Steelers by sportswriters, I think Smith would win it. But, based on the way his teammates reacted to his Pro Bowl snub, they understand what he means to the Steelers' all-world defense.
Casey Hampton - Hampton is simply unmovable in the center of the Steelers defensive line, a freakish force of nature.
Unfortunately for him, defensive linemen are measured by sacks and a 3-4 nose tackle isn't going to build his fame in that way.
But, if you want to know why nobody can run against the Steelers and some teams don't even try, start with Hampton and Smith and their modern version of the steel curtain.
The Ravens' Haloti Nagata seems to be getting more glowing press coverage than Hampton these days but I'll take our big guy any Sunday.
Ike Taylor - Taylor might be the most underrated cornerback in the league. All he does is shut down the other team's top receiver week after week. Randy Moss? Terrell Owens? Chad Johnson? Larry Fitzgerald (OK...maybe not quite as successfully)?
Taylor has lined up across from them week after week and more than held his own. It is the Steelers' confidence in Taylor that allows them to be more aggressive with their safeties and linebackers.
In Taylor's case, he doesn't get the recognition he deserves because his hands are made out of steel. If his hands don't improve dramatically, he will never receive the recognition he deserves.
But that doesn't mean he isn't an elite NFL cornerback. While he is already a legend in his own mind, that isn't necessarily a bad thing in a cornerback.
Heath Miller - Miller is an outstanding tight end. He can block and can catch. But, unless the Steelers become a much more pass-oriented offense, which is certainly a possibility given their challenges running the ball this past year, Miller will not have the numbers to ever enter the Hall discussion, not when some of his contemporaries, like Gonzalez and Gates, are putting up such monster numbers.
Like other players on the team, I wouldn't even consider trading him for those guys but at the end of the day, it is usually a numbers game.
Miller has more than validated the first round pick the Steelers spent on him and is one of the best tight ends they've ever had, but it is hard to imagine a scenario where he has a Hall of Fame career.
Still, he does have the honor of being recognized as one of the few clear cut upgrades from the 70s squads. Miller or Bennie Cunningham? I'm going with Miller.
James Farrior - He is a tackling machine and an outstanding leader. But, the Steelers defensive alignment is not really conducive to inside linebackers putting up the absurd kind of numbers Hall of Fame voters look for.
Farrior is one of those guys, though, that plays his heart out every week and seems to truly love the game. His discipline and reliability free up Lebeau to wreck havoc with the outside linebackers.