On offense, the answer is easy. Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback and that meant he was a leader even while Ward was still on the squad. The answer on defense isn’t quite so clear.
Safety Troy Polamalu has been mentioned as a player who should be stepping into that role this season and he seemed to be embracing it when he took part in offseason work with the team for the first time in years. Polamalu insists he isn’t a vocal leader, though, and explained to Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that isn’t a problem because he doesn’t think there’s much call for that kind of leadership on the Steelers defense.
“We’ve always had phantom leadership in that we have tradition,” Polamalu said. “There’s a certain way that we do things around here for as far back as I can remember, to Joe Greene and those guys, the way that we prepare ourselves and the way that we play. When you have that sort of phantom leadership, you don’t need a rah-rah guy that’s the face of the franchise that’s always pushing people.”
There might not be a need for anyone to be a rah-rah guy, but that phantom leadership only exists if there are players around who can make sure the old traditions get passed own to the new members of the team. Polamalu, Brett Keisel and Ike Taylor have all spent more than a decade with the Steelers, giving the Steelers plenty of players who fit that bill as they prepare for the coming season.