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NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

Top 5 Pittsburgh Steelers Poised For a Huge Season

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Top 5 Steelers Ready to Break Out

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

With the start of the 2013 NFL season only a few months away, the Pittsburgh Steelers are doing all they can to re-tool a team that finished a disappointing 8-8 last season. But regardless of who comes or who goes from this roster, the key to this team’s success is going to be with its core. There are veteran players on this team who have the talent to push this group back into the hunt for the AFC North.

The heart of the Steelers franchise has always been built around a dominant defense. But this year it could fall heavily on the offense to carry this team while some of the parts get up to speed and integrated into the system. There is going to be a much heavier rookie presence this year as opposed to previous seasons where most of the rookie class had an opportunity to “redshirt” so to speak. It’s all hands on deck.

But what makes a player a breakout candidate? It could be a return from injury, where the player looks healthy and ready to play at a high level. It could be a case where the role of that play looks to be expanded, and as fans we hope they are ready for it. But regardless of the reasons, these are the five Steelers players I'm looking at to take big strides in their career next season, and by doing so, making this a much better team.

Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL draft and college football for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.

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5-Marcus Gilbert, offensive tackle

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I had high hopes for Marcus Gilbert going into 2012, but a serious ankle injury sidelined him after only five games. But it is rumored that Gilbert is on track for a full recovery and will be starting at left tackle. So, this Steelers team is going to really need a breakout year from him.

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4-Cortez Allen, cornerback

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Last season I thought Cortez Allen would end up a starter, but he lost out to cornerback Keenan Lewis, who has since moved on. So the time is now for Allen, who showed late in the season when he finally cracked the starting lineup that he can be a force in the secondary.

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3-David DeCastro, offensive guard

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

David DeCastro's rookie season went totally opposite to plan as he suffered a serious injury in the preseason. But as he returned late in the season you saw a peek at what kind of potential he has. DeCastro is going to be a plug-and-play next year at guard and should really help power the run game for the Steelers.

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2-Steve McLendon, defensive tackle

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

With the likelihood that defensive tackle Casey Hampton won't be back in 2013, the role of starting nose tackle is going to fall on Steve McLendon. A 3-4 defense needs a great nose tackle and I expect big play out of him this season.

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1-Antonio Brown, wide receiver

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Antonio Brown era has begun. The Steelers let wide receiver Mike Wallace go via free agency, so it's up to Brown to carry the load in the passing game. That means more catches, more yards per catch and most importantly, more trips to the end zone.