5 Pittsburgh Steelers Players Who Won’t Be Back Next Season

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Pittsburgh Steelers Who Won't Be Back Next Season

Pittsburgh Steelers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In today's NFL turnover is inevitable, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are a team that seems to cling onto players a season or two longer than most. The Steelers stand on loyalty to those that have given them success, and although that is noble, it isn't always the best plan of attack for winning. Unfortunately, the Steelers are seeing this happen for a second season in a row, as the best they will be able to finish this year is another mediocre .500 season, and even that isn't guaranteed at this juncture.

When the season is bleak and the playoffs aren't in sight, fans and media start to begin the speculation of who will and won't be returning for the following season. Some might leave due to salary purposes, others just might not be producing, and some might need to be led to pasture and put down after a long and wonderful football career. Whatever the reason, players stay and players go.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have some tough decisions to make this offseason and there will be plenty of turnover throughout the lineup, but as I look into my crystal ball I see much more turnover on the defensive side of the football than I do the offensive side. Plain and simple, the offensive side of the ball is younger and doesn't need as much vitality injected into it as the defensive side does. With that said, just because youth is common on the offense doesn't mean there couldn't be players leaving there though.

I reached out to fans on social media to see who were the five Steelers players who would not be on the roster next season. There were great discussions, debates and analysis all around, but I took their suggestions and put together a list of my own, the five current Steelers players that will not be returning next season. So lets get to it. Here are the five Steelers players that won't be returning and why.

Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for RantSports.com and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz and add him on Google+

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1 - Brett Keisel

Pittsburgh Steelers
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The beloved Brett Keisel will be the first player to be given his pink slip from the Pittsburgh Steelers organization. As great as Keisel has been throughout his tenure with the Steelers, his age is something the Steelers simply can't handle any longer.

Keisel has been injured more and more throughout each year, and it seems as though the writing is on the wall for another player that was a part of the 2005 Super Bowl 40 winning team who will no longer be with the organization.

On top of his age and his injuries is the fact that Keisel's contract expires at year's end and you might just see "Da Beard" retire instead of trying to come back and having the Steelers tell him his services are no longer needed. When the Steelers have two No. 1 draft picks ready to step in, it is time for Keisel to hand the reigns to Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward to anchor the defensive line for future years to come.

Keisel's departure will leave a hole to be filled as Ziggy Hood's contract is also up at season's end, but the Steelers are more apt to sign the younger player rather than the aging veteran to a contract extension. Although Keisel might not be a current member of the Steelers after this year, it is a safe bet that he will be one of the more beloved Steelers in recent history.

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2 - Ryan Clark

Pittsburgh Steelers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Clark still has some years left in his football career if he chooses, but I don't think those years will be spent in Pittsburgh. Before the season, Clark stated that if he cannot sign a contract extension with the Steelers, retirement is a possibility. Clark is a polarizing player and someone who is bound to make a career out of his life after football, but as he has become comfortable in the lime light, he might have also verbally given the Steelers plenty of reason to see him leave.

Clark has been extremely vocal about his lack of respect for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as well as the league itself. That is fine, but when it puts a negative connotation on the organization it becomes a problem.

On top of the controversy is the fact that the cap strapped Pittsburgh Steelers will not be able to afford bringing Clark back next year and still be able to make improvements to the team. Clark's contract expires at the end of this season and the Steelers have made it known since training camp that they are not interested in re-signing the aging safety. On top of the controversy Clark brings, his play has declined as well. The drafting of rookie Shamarko Thomas at the safety position should tell you all you need to know about Ryan Clark's future with the team, and it ends at the end of the season.

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3 - Larry Foote

Pittsburgh Steelers
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Just like Brett Keisel, Larry Foote is a dying breed within the Pittsburgh Steelers' organization. A player who was on the roster for both the Super Bowl 40 and 43 championships. The Steelers watched Larry Foote leave for Detroit, then return a year later to want to compete and contend for a championship. However, Larry Foote has continued to be consistent in one department -- getting hurt. This season's torn biceps tendon ended his season, and probably his career in Pittsburgh.

With Foote's injury, it opened the door to two rookies who have not been lightning rods in terms of production, but have certainly played their role well and gotten experience at the inside linebacker position. Vince Williams, the rookie from Florida State University, has taken the majority of the snaps at the position, and now Terence Garvin has been splitting time in certain sub packages in the middle of the defense. Either way, the experience these player are getting is invaluable for the future at the position.

Foote is a leader on the defense, and it can't be stated enough how much his absence has hurt the defensive unit. After all, when a team gives up as many rushing yards as the Steelers have this year you typically look to the interior of the defense and that is where Foote excelled. Foote's contract is not a hefty one. He is only expected to make 1.5 million the next two seasons before becoming a free agent. It would be easy for the Steelers to part ways with Foote, but at such a cheap price he could possibly return. However, with such youth and potential at the position currently, you would have to wonder why the Steelers would even entertain him returning next season and not move on.

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4 - Emmanuel Sanders

Pittsburgh Steelers
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Emmanuel Sanders was a player that made a lot of noise in the offseason when he traveled to New England for a visit with the Patriots and was given a free agent tender that forced the Steelers to have to match the tender before losing the wide out. That tender got them Sanders in the black and gold for another season, but this will probably be his last. Would the Steelers like to keep Sanders? Of course they would, but the constant re-structuring of contracts is finally starting to creep up to the organization in terms of their salary cap situation. Simply put, the Steelers cannot afford Sanders anymore.

The curious question for me as the season comes to a conclusion is the question to whether or not the Steelers will attempt to sign Sanders, or let him walk as they let Mike Wallace go. Sanders has played well at times this year, but has had his share of costly drops too. If the Steelers let Sanders go, they will actually be prepared to move on at that position. The Steelers could possibly sign Jerricho Cotchery at a discounted rate, and they drafted Markus Wheaton to replace Sanders' split out wide opposite of Antonio Brown. In addition to those players, there are other receivers like Derek Moye that have been waiting for their chance to crack the lineup.

It will be sad to see another member of the "Young Money Crew" leave, but it is the nature of the beast in today's NFL.

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5 - Jason Worilds

Pittsburgh Steelers
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Worilds has come on like a gang buster the second half of the season. Lamarr Woodley's ongoing injury issues has allowed him to prove his worth and show why he was a second round draft pick when the Steelers selected him. However, as many fans are clamoring for the Steelers to let Woodley go and alleviate the team of his contract, those fans are not really looking at the whole situation. The cap strapped Steelers are not going to be able to just dump Woodley without having to eat around $9 million of his current contract, and that is if they wait until June to let him go. That $9 million will also really hurt the Steelers' attempt to sign other players this offseason.

One thing that you cannot forget is that even if the Steelers decide to let Woodley go, they will still have to re-sign Worilds and what contract will he expect after the performance that he has had? If you ask me, the Steelers cannot afford to let Woodley go, even though they might want to, and Worilds' departure will follow when Woodley is retained.

Would I be shocked if the Steelers cut Woodley? Possibly, but at the same time nothing surprises me anymore in terms of the decisions made by this organization. However, I am going with Jason Worilds rushing the passer somewhere other than Pittsburgh next season.

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