The Steelers lost 37 years of experience and leadership on defense with the combined retirements of safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor, and the release of defensive end Brett Keisel.
There is no doubt that leadership will have to be replaced, and the pieces to the puzzle could already exist within the locker room. But it's nothing that can be forced.
"You are always looking for leadership but not so much more this year than in previous years," said General Manager Kevin Colbert during the team's pre-draft press conference on Monday. "I don't think you go into a draft or free agency or anything trying to replace the players that just left.
"If you're talking about a Troy Polamalu, you're probably wasting your time trying to replace him because he was such a unique player, one that comes along once in a professional lifetime, honestly. I don't think you can go in saying, 'We have to get another leader. We have to get this or whatever.' I just think you let it come to you."
Trade winds always blowing:As the Steelers head into this week's NFL Draft, they are doing so with a completely open mind. Trading up, or trading down, is definitely an option for General Manager Kevin Colbert, as well as staying put with the 22nd overall pick in the draft.
Colbert said they will touch base with all of the 31 other NFL teams to see what the interest in trading is, a process that they go through every year during the draft.
"We just talk to a team," said Colbert. "We say, 'Look, we are interested in maybe coming up or going down.' It depends on what we are looking at. 'Are you interested?' Usually it's, 'Oh yeah, we can go either way.' We may say, 'Okay, we have this position of excess. We might be able to move somebody. Do you have any excess?' Sometimes they will give you a position. Sometimes they will give you a name. It's really just an exercise.
"Again, we will be more concerned about what is available to us and how many picks we need to have the player fall to us. That will dictate whether or not we want to go up or go back."
Coach Mike Tomlin, who spoke along with Colbert at the team's pre-draft press conference on Monday, said the key is what the Steelers are looking for when making a trade.
"Trading up is more about where we have a particular player on our board as opposed to speculating where others might have them on their board," said Tomlin. "The trade up mentality might be geared toward where we have someone on our board relative to where we pick as opposed to trying to forecast who else might be interested in Player-A."