The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t just lose a Hall of Fame caliber center when Maurkice Pouncey retired. And they wouldn’t lose just a thumping, two-down linebacker in Vince Williams if he becomes a cap casualty in the coming days.
They’d lose a lot of leadership in that locker room too.
Rod Woodson offers the perspective of someone whose been apart of NFL locker rooms. So he knows and understands their value as well as anyone. Discussing the state of the Steelers in a Monday interview on 93.7 The Fan with Chris Mueller and Andrew Fillipponi, Woodson cited the potential of a leadership vacuum.
“The key is another thing is like, where is the leadership going to come from?” Woodson asked. “I think Ben made a lot of amends last year when he kind of talked about all his demons that he had fought in the past. And I think a lot of guys, and even I, had appreciation for that. But I’m looking at the offense, you lose Pouncey. So where’s your leadership going to come from? And that’s critical. And I think it’s critical in a sense that you have young players like Claypool who start acting up in a diva way and you need those veteran players to kind of come to them and say, ‘hey, that’s great to be like that a little bit here and there, but our standard is our standard.'”
Setting aside the Chase Claypool “diva” comment, which is nothing but offseason fodder of the day, Woodson is right about the impact of leadership. Pouncey was the glue guy along the offensive line and now there are several veterans gone or about to walk out the door. Ramon Foster retired last year, Pouncey is gone, Alejandro Villanueva is about to hit free agency, and David DeCastro may not be a Steeler for too much longer. The Steelers’ offensive line is undergoing its first transformation in a decade.
More dominoes across this team will fall within the next 12 months. Whether that’s Ben Roethlisberger’s likely retirement or the departure of CB Joe Haden after the 2022 season to GM Kevin Colbert’s days with the organization likely numbered. The team is about to enter a brand new era.
“That’s the Steelers’ Way,” Woodson said of the Steelers’ leadership model. “The standard is the standard has been set there since Chuck Noll’s been there. It was there when I got there and it’s still there.”
But there will soon be a passing of the torch. In some regards, like along the offensive line, it’s already started. And younger guys will have to step up to fill those voids, as TJ Watt has begun to do on the defensive side of the football.