With the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, many fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers are curious who will step up as a leader on the offensive side of the ball in 2022.
Many names have been tossed around, and all have their merit.
The quarterback, whoever that may be this season, is always expected to take on a leadership role on the offense.
Maybe it is a younger player, someone like Najee Harris or Pat Freiermuth, but that’s a lot to ask for such a young duo.
What if it is someone new to the team? Meaning, a recent addition via free agency?
Believe it or not, that might actually be the case with James Daniels, the interior offensive lineman who was drafted by the Chicago Bears. Daniels is ready to not just step into the starting lineup, but also into a leadership role with the team.
“I want to take on a leadership role, but first I would like to be respected, earn the respect of the others on the offensive line,” Daniels told the Steelers official website. “You can’t take on a leadership role if you aren’t respected. Once I earn the respect of the veterans, the rookies and younger players, the others in the offensive line room and earn it from the coaches and defensive players. Earning that respect is even more important than a leadership role. Once you earn that respect, you are looked at as a leader by others.”
It’s been a while since the Steelers were left with no veteran ready to step up and take on that leadership role. If it wasn’t Roethlisberger it was a multitude of players like Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Ramon Foster. Not all were the rah-ray type leaders, but they were the ones who lead by example.
That’s exactly the type of leader Daniels wants to become for the Steelers.
“I like to lead by example,” Daniels said. “I like people being able to see me in the weight room, training room, on the field doing things right. When they see a veteran picking up trash, or taking notes in the team meeting, that goes a long way. I just want to lead by example.
“For me it’s about just doing your job. That is what I was taught at Iowa, what Coach (Kirk) Ferentz taught me. Whenever you are at the facility, just do your job. I am going to try and take younger players under my wing and emphasize you only have one thing to do here, and that is do your job. If your job is to be at the facility at 8 am, that is your job. If your job is to block the three-technique a certain way, that is your job. Just everything you do. I just focus on doing my job.”
To most fans, those previous quotes are music to their ears. Someone who is willing to do the dirty work, and not crave attention for doing so, hasn’t been seen in the Steelers’ locker room for quite some time.
In the meantime, Daniels has been in touch with his new teammates, and is ready to start building something special in Pittsburgh.
“All of the offensive linemen have texted me and said we are ready to get to work,” said Daniels. “I said the same thing. I am ready to get to work and help the team improve.
“Camaraderie among the offensive line has to be there. If your o-line isn’t a tight group, you won’t be a good line. They don’t know me yet. We are just starting off, introductory types of texts, but that goes a long way. When you build that relationship now, you are able to trust them on fourth-and-sixth and things like that. I am just excited we are building those relationships now, almost a month ahead of when we even have to report.”
Outside of attending Iowa in college, Daniels has only known one NFL organization since being drafted, and that is with the Bears. Since coming to the Steelers, Daniels has been more than pleased with how he has been accepted, and how the future can unfold with his new team.
“I’ve been amazed at how good the people are and how genuine they are and how everyone is on the same mission, to win the Super Bowl,” said Daniels. “I am excited to be around those people.
“It’s about the tradition. You start with Mr. (Art) Rooney (II) all the way down. It’s a first-class organization. The Steelers have been consistently one of the top organizations in the league, from the 1970s through now. I wanted to be a part of this tradition. I want to get to work. I am excited.”
At this point and time, the Steelers will take anyone who is willing to step up and lead on the offensive side of the ball. It will take more than one, but if Daniels is the main leader, and does it well, so be it.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of free agency, and the 2022 NFL Draft.