New leaders are needed, and what better position to find them than linebacker?
Here are some prime examples within this year's crop of prospects:
* Arthur Brown (6-0, 241, 4.6), a two-time team captain, was called "The Judge" by his Kansas State teammates for his leadership by example, such as pounding the sled well after practice had ended throughout his transfer season.
"All the lights are off and Arthur is still down there going at it," the team's LBs coach at the time, Chris Cosh, told The Kansas City Star. "The thing I admired about him was the way he brought people together. Everyone else saw that. After a while we had lots of kids staying after practice."
Does anyone in Pittsburgh remember Aaron Smith building that kind of post-practice camaraderie around the sleds? Mike Tomlin does.
* Barkevious Mingo (6-4.2, 241, 4.58) "is the guy that sets the tone in practice," LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan told the Baton Rouge Advocate. "He's always running to the ball. We turn on film and he's the first one sprinting to the ball. That says a lot. He just sets himself aside from everybody else with his effort."
Does anyone else remember Farrior racing Smith to the ball on not only every play, but every time the coaches changed sides of the field? Tomlin sure does.
* Mike Mauti (6-2, 243) was so incensed about Illinois recruiting Penn State players last summer that rumors proudly circulate of Mauti slamming his head into lockers during his speech before the Illinois game. Then he intercepted two passes, including a 99½ yarder, a la James Harrison, as the clock ticked to zero just before halftime.
When Mauti tore his ACL a few weeks later, teammates put his No. 42 on the sides of their white helmets for the next game.
"He's a natural-born leader," said Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill. "If you're walking down a dark alley, that's the guy you want to take with you."
Remember Harrison? You get the point by now. The same one is made here:
* John Simon (6-1, 257, 4.62) told a reporter that his favorite summertime activity was morning workouts, for which he set his alarm at 4:30 a.m. "The physical pain and the mental pain you have to go through to endure those workouts is what makes it fun," Simon told The Blade of Toledo.
"Now [Simon] is giving something back to the team," Meyer told the paper. "His lifting at 6 a.m. does nothing for our team. It does something for him, but this is not an individual sport."
"John Simon is like nobody I've ever met," said teammate Jack Mewhort. "The way he works and his dedication, that's the kind of dude, when you get older, you talk about and say, ‘Wow, I've never met another guy like him.'"
These players are the hearts-and-souls of major programs, and Larry Foote is waiting to mold one of them to be the same for the Steelers.
One is needed inside, and perhaps one is needed outside.
Georgia's team leader, Jarvis Jones (6-2, 245, 4.92), is considered by most experts as the perfect first-round fit for the Steelers, and his instincts, leadership and work ethic would be obvious assets.
But Jones has several factors working against him, including his age (24 in October), his medical risk (spinal stenosis wouldn't allow USC to clear him and caused him to transfer) and his lack of size and speed for an outside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4. Mingo is taller, faster, just as light, but he played defensive end and has the frame to add weight, making him a better projection than Jones in their scheme. However, it's unlikely Mingo will still be available at pick 17.
The Steelers traditionally choose smaller defensive ends out of the mid to late rounds as projections. Those types have better anchors against the run. And the Steelers realize any such projection carries risk, which explains why they haven't drafted one in the first round under Tomlin, nor had they under Bill Cowher.
Inside, the Steelers need a future captain, and Brown, Mauti, Kevin Reddick (6-1.3, 243, 4.72) and A.J. Klein (6-1.2, 250, 4.66) are a handful of the many prospects who've captained major-college programs. One will be the cornerstone of the Steelers next era of defense.
Wexell's Value Board for the Pittsburgh Steelers
First Round – Arthur Brown (ILB), Kansas State; Jarvis Jones (OLB), Georgia.
Third Round – Sio Moore (ILB), UConn; Jamie Collins (OLB), Southern Miss; Lerentee McCray (OLB), Florida; Cornelius Washington (OLB), Georgia; Kevin Reddick (ILB), North Carolina; Corey Lemonier (OLB), Auburn.
Fourth Round – Mike Mauti (ILB), Penn State; Trevardo Williams (OLB), UConn.
Fifth Round – A.J. Klein (ILB), Iowa State; John Simon (OLB), Ohio State.