WR Hines Ward, OLG Chris Kemoeatu, DLE Aaron Smith and LILB James Farrior were starters on Pittsburgh's last Super Bowl-winning team in 2008. Now, they are all on their way out as Pittsburgh gets its financial house in order and reshapes its roster.
While Ward, Smith and Farrior were Steelers stalwarts, their imminent departures were not entirely unexpected. Nor was the release of Kemoeatu, a former starter.
Of this quartet, Farrior was the biggest contributor in 2011, starting 14 games and notching 78 tackles, but at age 37, and slated to make $2.825 million this season, he was vulnerable. Of the players currently on the roster, Larry Foote stands the best shot at replacing Farrior in the lineup, the way we hear it.
Ward, who lost his starting job to Antonio Brown, was scheduled to make $4 million this season and figured to be a reserve if retained. He will be 36 on March 8, and the Steelers have good WR depth.
Smith, who turns 36 in April, has missed 33 games the past three seasons. Two of Pittsburgh's last three first-round picks have been defensive ends — Ziggy Hood in 2009 and Cameron Heyward in '11. Hood stepped into the lineup for the injured Smith in each of the past two seasons.
Kemoeatu, 29, is the youngest of the Steelers to depart in this round of cuts, but he struggled in 2011 and lost his starting job.