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Steelers defensive leadership-by-committee just what the doctor ordered

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The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is a very athletic and young unit, but when it comes down to who is leading the pack their leadership-by-committee philosophy will fit the bill.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I don't think there is any doubting who the clear leader is of the 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers. Look no further than No. 7, Ben Roethlisberger, for that answer, but what about the defense? Gone are the veteran leaders Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Brett Keisel. Not only did they take their storied pedigree with them, but they left a gaping hole in terms of leadership in their wake.

So, who will this year's defense turn to when looking for their leader? Well, no one, or more specifically, no one in particular. The Steelers have players capable of leading: James Harrison, Cameron Heyward, Lawrence Timmons and William Gay to name a few, but it seems as if the unit is taking a "leadership-by-committee" approach to the upcoming season, and that could be just what the doctor ordered.

When there is one person who is labeled the unequivocal leader of a group, pressure is placed on that person to always have the answer. Young players might lean on this person not only for answers, but also solutions to issues they might be having. When no one is the unmatched leader, everyone holds each other accountable and the team benefits from having players take ownership of their jobs, and those around them. Rather than relying on a few players to do just that.

Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review asked several Steelers who they felt are the leaders of the defense heading into 2015. Their answers say it all:

CB William Gay: "I think collectively. It's not by one person stepping up and being a leader; it's about the whole team just coming together and being a family, and that's what we plan on doing. We don't really care who's the leader because at the end of the day it's not about what we say - it's about what we do... There's a lot of leaders on the team - we don't need one player to step up and be the voice of the Steelers. We don't need to do that, we just need to let our play do the talking."

DE Cameron Heyward: "A lot of guys lead in different ways. It doesn't fall on one guy's shoulders. I think that's the way we like it because we can keep each other accountable and focused on the task at hand."

LB Lawrence Timmons: "We've got a lot of guys ready to step in there to do the role... We're the type of team that we all play our roles - whatever our role, all our guys fulfill that role, and that's what makes us better as a team... I try to be a leader now that I'm the older guy, trying to set the example for how we play or whatever. But the thing about me, I've seen that from the guys who did it in the past, so I know the recipe starting with Coach LeBeau and with Coach Butler now, so I know the winning recipe and I'm just ready to do the job."

Just do your job. A phrase which is often said, yet rarely fulfilled, seems to be the mantra of this defense as they search for leadership in 2015. If the coaches and players completely buy into the "leadership-by-committee" philosophy, there is no doubt this team will develop and come together as a "family" as William Gay said. After all, no one wants to let down family, and that could be a recipe for success for this 2015 Steelers defense.