Traditionally, Polamalu missed those workouts, preferring to train on his own in California. The reduction of veteran leadership among the Steelers from 2011 to 2012 compelled him to join the rest of the team last year.
Polamalu was injured for the vast majority of the season, leading some to question whether he would be able to play in the league much longer. Questions in regards to his longevity are certainly fair, and there's no way one could say conclusively whether his involvement with the team during optional workouts rendered him injury-prone for the season, if the Steelers needed Polamalu to make the right move leadership-wise last year, they'll certainly need him to do it again this year.
The selection of Shamarko Thomas in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft is a big part of the reason why.
Mentoring is something Steelers veterans have been renowned for in the course of their streak of domination in the 2000s. Helping to fill that mentor role within the organization is the best thing Polamalu can do. There's also young safety Robert Golden, who's expected to compete for snaps his year, and the more work they can get with outstanding veterans like Polamalu and Ryan Clark, the better the team will be.
Last year, the Steelers had veterans at their back-up safety positions with Ryan Mundy and Will Allen. Both have departed, and Thomas and Golden will have to be ready to play.
The first session of OTAs begins May 21.