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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.