Pittsburgh Steelers: 5 Veterans Who Could Be In Their Last Year With The Team

Joseph BrunoCorrespondent IMay 19, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers: 5 Veterans Who Could Be In Their Last Year With The Team

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    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 12:  Reggie Kelly #82 of the Cincinnati Bengals is hit by James Farrior #51 of the Pittsburgh Steelers after catching a pass during the game on December 12, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are routinely in the conversation for the best team in the NFL, and they could be in for some big changes in the next few years.

    Although I am very excited to see what the Steelers' young players can do, it is going to be hard to see some of the older players go.

    The Steelers have been trying to get younger on both offense and defense, and here are five guys who could either retire or be cut after the 2011 season.

Chris Hoke DT

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    PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 7: Chris Hoke #76 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks at Heinz Field October 7, 2007 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers won 21-0. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Career with Steelers: Nine seasons, 80 tackles, two sacks

    Chris Hoke may not be missed as much as the other guys on this list; however, he has been very important to the Steelers in his career.

    The nose is one of the most important positions in the Steelers defense and Hoke has been a great backup to Casey Hampton.

    When Hoke is in the game the Steelers defense doesn’t miss a beat; however, I think this will be Hoke’s last year.

Aaron Smith DE

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    GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 6:  Defensive end Aaron Smith #91 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackles running back ReShard Lee #32 of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 6, 2005 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Steelers defeated the Packers 20-10.  (Ph
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Career with Steelers: 12 seasons, 445 tackles, 44 sacks

    Aaron Smith has been a perfect fit in Pittsburgh and has been one of the more underrated players in the NFL.

    Smith may not have great numbers, but he is great against the run and better against the pass than you would think for a 3-4 end.

    Unfortunately, though, Smith has had a hard time staying healthy for a full season, and I think he retires after this season.

James Farrior LB

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    PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 21:  Jason Campbell #8 of the Oakland Raiders is sacked by James Farrior #51 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on November 21, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Career with Steelers: Nine seasons, 1,002 tackles, 28 sacks, eight interceptions

    The Steelers signed James Farrior in 2002 and he has been one of the teams’ best free-agent signings in their history.

    Farrior has had over 100 tackles in six of his nine seasons with the Steelers and has been a great leader for the team.

    I was one of the people who defended Farrior last year and said that he deserved to keep his starting job; however, if he does not retire after this season, I can see the Steelers cutting him.

Ryan Clark FS

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    PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 17:  Ryan Clark #25 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tries to escape the tackle of Evan Moore #89 of the Cleveland Browns after a first quarter interception on October 17, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Career with Steelers: 360 tackles, seven interceptions

    Ryan Clark is up there as one of the better free-agent signings the team has had—they picked him up in 2006.

    He has been a perfect fit alongside Troy Polamalu and brings a hard-hitting attitude to the Steelers defense.

    Clark has been known in his Steelers career for destroying receivers; however, the team is trying to get younger at certain positions and Clark just is not the player he once was.

Hines Ward WR

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 21:  Hines Ward #86 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball after catching a pass against the Oakland Raiders during the game on November 21, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Career with Steelers: 13 seasons, 954 receptions, 11,702 yards, 83 touchdowns

    This is the guy I will be personally saddest to see go because he has been my favorite player to watch in all my time of being a Steelers fan.

    Hines Ward will retire as the Steelers all-time leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns and he should end up in the Hall of Fame someday.

    Hines has some of the best hands in the NFL, is one of the toughest guys in the league and is one of the best blocking receivers of all time.