The Pittsburgh Steelers have parted ways with a number of aging talents that epitomized success in the community during the height of their careers. While their on-field assets may have diminished over the years, however, one should not underestimate the ripple effect that their departures could have within the locker room.
While the concepts of camaraderie and leadership may be somewhat elusive when it comes to the team chemistry of a sports team, there is no doubt some truth to the idea that these qualities help build a winning team, especially when it comes to a game as interconnected with one another as is football.
The last several offseasons have seen some quality championship characters exit stage right, and their vacant lockers no doubt diminished the overall character of the room as a whole. Just recently, the team saw both Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu retire, even if their departures were already in the plans for this spring.
The question now becomes identifying who the new locker room leaders are, both now and in the future. I believe we do have some immediate answers, with a few waiting to be developed in the coming years, so let’s get to know some of these men who are leading the locker room these days for the Steelers.
It makes sense, I believe to start at the center, literally, with Maurkice Pouncey. Of all the Steelers on the roster, none has been more decorated relative to his time in the league than the fifth-year former first-round draft pick.
In his five seasons, Pouncey has been named to the All-Pro team four times, with the only year featuring his absence being the 2013 season, in which he tore his ACL early on in the first game. That unimpeachable proficiency in excellence lends itself naturally to a position of leadership, but his qualities as a leader go beyond setting an example.
If we go back to the 2013 season, in fact, as Pouncey was entering his fourth year, we were already becoming exposed to a new side of the young lineman, who was taking on a more definitive and vocal role with not only his fellow linemen, but also the rest of the offense. Throughout the year as he rehabbed his ACL, he continued to be an unmistakable presence around the facility and on game day, pushing his teammates hard, all the while putting on display all the worth that he was putting in to get back into the fight with them.
Last year, he came back and had arguably the best season yet of his young career, anchoring a young offensive line that looks up to him as the one who has been there and seen it all.
You can even hear the change in his demeanor when he speaks to the media these days. He’s not quite as jocular as he once was, and he speaks with authority as an ambassador and representative of his teammates. Ramon Foster is a nice wingman to have for Pouncey, but there’s no mistaking that he runs that offensive line, and is part of the larger offensive brain trust.