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Steelers Cam Heyward isn't going to try to be Brett Keisel

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The Steelers' most talented defensive end isn't going to try to be any kind of leadership replacement for injured DE Brett Keisel, but he is going to continue to be the leader he has been for the young Steelers' defensive line.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers tight end Heath Miller suffered a knee injury in Week 16 of the Steelers' 2012 season. Replays confirmed something even non-medical professionals could see - it was a bad injury, and he'd be out for a while.

More compelling than that was the video showing veteran defensive end helping Miller, his longtime friend and teammate, off the field.

Keisel has been that kind of visual leader throughout his career with the Steelers, a team known for a tradition of veterans helping, not shunning, the younger players. Keisel's work with the young defensive linemen will no doubt help them in the future, but displays of concern for fallen teammates will resonate with the team for a long time.

Now that Keisel is the one significantly injured, it's time for the once-younger players, guys like DE Cameron Heyward, to fill a role. Just not perhaps in the same way Keisel did.

Heyward spoke with Teresa Varley of recently, suggesting his role as a leader needs to be redefined in Keisel's absence, but it won't change his approach.

src=" Preseason breakdown of Steelers DE Cameron Heyward

"I am just going to try and lead by example and encouragement," Heyward said. "I am not going to replace Brett Keisel, but I can be my own kind of leader. If that means keeping guys accountable, keeping myself accountable and leading by example, that is what I will do."

Heyward has spoken often about leadership heading into this season, a year removed from a breakout campaign that saw him become one of the emerging star defensive players among the Steelers - a team in dire need of some younger talent. Keisel's return this off-season - he was signed after training camp and before the start of the regular season - wasn't an indictment of Heyward but, rather, the necessary learning curve for the young players on the Steelers' defensive line. Rookies Stephon Tuitt and Dan McCullers have seen time this season, perhaps as much, if not more, than Heyward did as a rookie. If anyone understands the "always be ready" mentality of a rookie, it's Heyward.

The Steelers will replace Keisel on Sunday most likely with Tuitt when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals in a must-win game for their hopes of a division championship. Tuitt has mentioned he feels ready to accept this role, while acknowledging his coach's concern about his ability to stop the run as a reason his snaps have been limited.

Heyward's game will have to rise as well, considering the talent the Bengals have offensively. Leadership will count for something in this game.

It will be Heyward's leadership now, though, which can be somewhat linked to Keisel's.