The Pittsburgh Steelers may have lost a lot of locker room leadership and general ‘character’ over the course of this offseason, even as far up as at defensive coordinator, but it wouldn’t be fair to say, for example, that the front office has ignored these qualities in their offseason plans. In fact, I think it shows quite apparently in some of their moves.
The Steelers only added one significant outside free agent addition this offseason, which was running back DeAngelo Williams. Anybody with just about any level of exposure to his personality and demeanor can easily tell that he is a character person, both on and off the field, and he should serve in a mentoring role for the young running backs.
Bringing back wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, I think, was another move that accomplishes the task of replenishing some of the locker room culture and team-building. While he may not play a critical role on the offense for the Steelers, he brings a blue collar attitude to his job that belies his first-round draft stock, and it does show to those around him as he works on his run blocking and special teams coverage.
It was the defensive moves, however, that really get at the heart of this discussion, as I believe that they were able to retain an immense amount of locker room value on that side of the ball through their free agent moves.
The Steelers retained three key locker room presences during this offseason on defense, those being James Harrison, Will Allen, and the newcomer of sorts, Arthur Moats. While their roles on Sunday may vary, they contribute positively to the communal fabric of the locker room.
As we have seen, Harrison has become in his later years a leader of sorts in a way that he never was before, taking the younger players under his wing and showing them how to be a professional, from preparing for games to training and dieting. The Steelers made clear that this was one of the reasons that he was brought back, in fact.
Moats may have only been in Pittsburgh for one season, but his warm, gregarious nature off the field instantly won him many fans, both inside the stadium and out. After performing well in limited snaps, he was rewarded with a nice three-year contract that may put him in the starting lineup.
I think it may be Allen who actually adds the most value, however, in terms of retaining a certain locker room dynamic. After all, he is one of the veterans of the locker room, both in terms of age and in tenure with the team, as he is entering his sixth season with the Steelers.
Additionally, Allen has seen the game from a variety of roles, from a special teamer to a sport starter to a sub-package player, and even as a player who left for a starting gig and found his way back. He is the type of team-first player that the younger guys in the locker room need to look toward as the Steelers try to rebuild the camaraderie that helped lead them to championships.