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NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers: 5 Biggest Replacements for Departed Veterans

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Five Biggest Replacements for Departed Veterans

Steelers
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be going into the 2013 NFL season with all intentions of improving on their second-rate 8-8 record from a year ago and reclaiming their rightful spot atop the AFC North. Even though a tight salary cap prevented the organization from retaining key veterans, the Steelers still have hope with potential replacements.

Already having to face the reigning Super Bowl champions and another up-and-coming team within the division in the Cincinnati Bengals twice each, Pittsburgh will need to fill the empty spaces left by the players who are no longer there the best way possible.

Looking at both sides of the ball, Pittsburgh will substitute the veterans that they cut ties with by replacing them with players who were on last year’s roster. However, there is a chance that one of the replacements on the defensive side could be a rookie, something that is very uncommon with the Steelers’ way of doing things.

Some of these key replacements were understudies for several seasons and will add much-needed youth to an aging team, while others will be stepping in for big-impact players and could possibly be considered a downgrade. Regardless of who fills the voids, the success of Pittsburgh’s 2013 season could rest upon the performances of these players.

Though there will be some replacements on the second and third strings of the depth chart, the most important ones will be starters on the offensive and defensive lines, at wide receiver, cornerback and outside linebacker. Here are the five biggest replacements the Steelers have for their departed veterans.

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Cortez Allen replacing Keenan Lewis

Steelers
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Just when the Steelers thought they found a complement to Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis goes and takes advantage of his marketability in free agency and signs with the New Orleans Saints. Now third-year cornerback Cortez Allen will get the chance to prove that he’s starting material.

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Steve McLendon replacing Casey Hampton

Steelers
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It was only a matter of time until long-time veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton would leave the Steel City. Steve McLendon, Hampton’s understudy for the past three years, shouldn’t be a concern anchoring the defensive line.

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Emmanuel Sanders replacing Mike Wallace

Steelers
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Losing wide receiver Mike Wallace to free agency left one of the biggest holes in the Steelers’ roster. Matching an offer to retain Emmanuel Sanders this offseason was just as big. Though Sanders isn’t as fast as Wallace, he’s still capable of making big plays.

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Marcus Gilbert replacing Max Starks

Steelers
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

After nine seasons with the Steelers, offensive tackle Max Starks moved on and will be replaced by third-year O-lineman Marcus Gilbert. Pittsburgh will move Gilbert from right tackle to left tackle, the position left vacant by Starks’ absence. Gilbert’s protection on the blindside of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be vital.

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Jason Worilds/Jarvis Jones replacing James Harrison

Steelers
Jason O. Watson-USA TODAY Sports

James Harrison left the Steelers as the franchise’s second all-time leader in sacks. Next in line, for now, is linebacker Jason Worilds. However, right on his heels is Jarvis Jones, the 17th overall pick from the 2013 NFL Draft. The battle between Worilds and Jones will definitely be heated in training camp, and could possibly roll into the regular season.

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