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NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

Five Most Valuable Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013

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Pittsburgh Steelers Top 5 Most Valuable Players in 2013

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With the disappointing 8-8, 2012 season in the rearview mirror, the Pittsburgh Steelers now have a laundry list of things to tend to this offseason. They have already cut a significant amount of their salary cap by reconstructing a few contracts, and have even added a familiar face to their defensive backfield.

Now with both the start of free agency and the draft on the horizon, the Steelers must find a way to fill some potential holes in their roster. A number of Pittsburgh’s current players are expected to be playing elsewhere in 2013, some of which are vital to the success of the Steelers.

Even with the departure of some savvy veterans and explosive players, Pittsburgh should still have a solid nucleus to go along with incoming rookies and free agents going into next season.

Many of the players that are slated to remain in black and gold will have very important roles with the team in 2013. Roles that are so important, that they would probably make them much more valuable than any newcomer the Steelers may get.

Looking at the current roster and the successes of last season (or lack there of), I have pointed out the top five most valuable players that Pittsburgh will have going into the 2013 campaign. Without these players, the Steelers will have a much more difficult shot at getting back to their winning ways, and reclaiming the highly competitive AFC North.

Let’s take a look at the five players Pittsburgh would be doomed without.

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5. Brett Keisel

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh’s defensive line usually doesn’t get much recognition, but defensive end Brett Keisel is one of the most important cogs in the Steelers’ defense, and will be the cornerstone of their defensive front next season. Keisel led the Steelers’ D-line in tackles (46) and sacks (4.5) this past season, and will be looked upon to produce in the same way in 2013.

The defensive line will solely belong to Keisel, an 11-year veteran, because of the predicted departure of Steelers long-time nose tackle Casey Hampton, and Pittsburgh’s eager anticipation for the emergence of defensive ends Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward.

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4. Antonio Brown

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Since it’s pretty evident that wide receiver Mike Wallace won’t be returning next year, and tight end Heath Miller will more than likely start the 2013 season sidelined because of a torn ACL, all of the focus in the passing game will be on wide receiver Antonio Brown. The Steelers’ aerial attack will now have Brown as their number-one receiver as not only a possession receiver, but possibly as a main target in the red zone as well. Even with the possible addition of new pass catchers, Brown’s familiarity with the Steelers’ offensive scheme makes him one of the most valuable players on offense.

In addition to his offensive contributions, Brown will also be a huge part in the punt return game. This was a greatly missed last season when Brown was sidelined for three weeks due to injury.

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3. Troy Polamalu

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Missing the majority of the 2012 season with a calf injury, safety Troy Polamalu’s presence was missed by Pittsburgh’s defensive unit. Even though the Steelers had the best pass defense in the entire league, turnovers were lacking from the secondary.

This past season, Pittsburgh’s defensive backs recorded six of the team’s 10 interceptions. In seasons prior to that, the Steelers’ secondary put up much bigger numbers, and it was because of Polamalu. In 2011, their defensive backs had nine picks, and 14 thefts were recorded in 2010 by the DBs. The 2009 season saw 10 interceptions, and a whopping 17 by the Polamalu-led secondary in 2008. From 2008-11, Polamalu led the team in picks. His presence will give the Steelers something that they were vastly lacking last season.

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2. Maurkice Pouncey

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The anchor of Pittsburgh’s offensive line over the past three years has been center Maurkice Pouncey. The Steelers’ tradition of great centers is in safe hands as long as Pouncey is lining up over the football. Pouncey is the most consistent offensive lineman Pittsburgh has, and has proven so by being named a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in each of his three years in the league.

The running game of the Steelers finished the 2012 season ranked 26th in the league. Though injuries in the backfield didn’t help, the inconsistent run blocking was a major cause of the ineffective ground attack. Pouncey will not only have to spearhead the running attack, but he will also have to take charge in protecting the franchise quarterback.

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1. Ben Roethlisberger

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There’s no secret that without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers wouldn’t have even had a fighting chance at winning the AFC North last season. Before getting injured, Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh to a 6-3 record, despite not having a consistent running game to assist him. Though Big Ben did miss three games, he did finish the season with 26 touchdown passes to only eight interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 97.0. His presence was greatly missed when he was sidelined.

With the team decimated with injuries, Roethlisberger was the one who held the team together, and showed why he is one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. When it’s all said and done, this team will go as far as Big Ben’s arm will take them.

Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google