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True test of Steelers leadership lies ahead in second half of 2016

The Pittsburgh Steelers are reeling, and their leadership, or lack thereof, will be tested in the second half of the 2016 season.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

There have been legendary leaders throughout the Pittsburgh Steelers history. Tales of players like “Mean” Joe Greene, Hines Ward, Jerome Bettis and Joey Porter certainly come to mind, but since Porter, Ward and Bettis’ retirements, the team has searched for the next line of leaders to step up and show others what it means to be a member of the Steelers.

Unfortunately, finding those names hasn’t been as easy as many would think. There simply weren’t those players who were ready to step up in front of the team and get the troops in order. Even Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t named a captain until the latter portion of his career.

Nonetheless, with Pittsburgh reeling at 4-4, dropping three games in a row, some of the leaders on the team, even those who you might not expect, are doing their best to help right the ship as they prepare to face the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10.

Roethlisberger clearly is the leader of the offense, and his, “Follow me” message to the team invoked inspiration among many, including his offensive line, but it also lit a spark in some other players. Most notably Le’Veon Bell.

Bell isn’t considered a leader on the team. Still in his rookie contract, off-the-field issues surrounding him the past two seasons and viewed as more of a player who follows rather than leads, Bell has been taking the bull by the proverbial horns in practice.

Not just leading by example, but after Bell criticized the Steelers practice habits following the team’s most recent loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Bell was reportedly chirping at teammates in practice, in hopes of the team cleaning up their overall game and turning the corner in the second half of the season.

On defense, the leadership role begins and ends with Cameron Heyward. The player who thought the defense quit in their Week 6 and 7 losses is very vocal about how the defense plays, and the expectations the unit has on a week-by-week basis.

The leaders are in place, but how effective are their methods?

The answer to that question will be shown in the final 8 games of the season. With the Steelers hovering at the .500 mark, this team finds itself on the outside looking in within the AFC Playoff Picture. The team will likely need at worst a 6-2 record to have a viable shot at the playoffs, and slip ups simply won’t be acceptable.

While many fans point the finger at Mike Tomlin for the many duds which have been laid over the years, the leaders on the team should also be called out for the failures against sub-par teams. Players will follow the lead of the leaders, and when the team collectively looks unprepared, leadership should be called into question.

In Week 10 the Steelers will officially begin the second half of the season. Roethlisberger declared the team isn’t going to look in the rear view mirror, but only at what lies ahead. It starts with the 7-1 Dallas Cowboys coming to Heinz Field, and it could spring board them into further success down the road.

Say what you want, but the Steelers are still a ridiculously talented football team. A team who could make a legitimate run in the latter portion of the season, but they will need to be a focused bunch to achieve the kind of success which is expected in the Steel City.

Every great team needs leaders, but those leaders need to have followers. Let’s hope the leaders on the team are more than capable of doing their jobs from this point forward, the success of the 2016 Steelers could depend on it.