If it's a vocal leader Bill Cowher wants, then it's a vocal leader the Steelers coach shall receive.
At least, he will if linebacker Larry Foote has anything to say about it.
"Trash talk? Oh yeah, I can handle my own," Foote said. "I come from Detroit. That's all we do. I can talk with the bets of 'em."
Foote, who became a starter for the first time last season, had already established himself as the equal, if not the superior, of fallen linebacker Joey Porter in that regard, according to linebacker James Farrior. Now that Porter (knee) will be sidelined for approximately a month, Farrior suspects Foote will pick up right where Foote and Porter left off.
"I got my money on Foote," Farrior said.
Still, it's going to take more than a Motor City motor-mouth to steward the Steelers through a perceived leadership vacuum left by the departures of Porter and running back Duce Staley (knee), and the who-knows-how-long-its-going-to-last holdout of wide receiver Hines Ward.
Ward and Porter are two of the Steelers' most respected and most influential players. Staley, likewise, is a highly-regarded and decorated NFL veteran. The tone they set and the example they provide will be missed, perhaps as much as their contributions to the cause between the white lines.
That being the case, Cowher challenged unidentified and as yet unknown Steelers to "step up" and help fill the leadership void.
It has to happen naturally as well as gradually, Cowher maintains.
But that being said, it has to happen.
"Their presence, they're like the light of our team, both of those guys," Foote said of Ward and Porter. "You're confident, but with those guys in there, you're even more confident because you know they're going to be there in the first quarter and the fourth quarter.
"And they love to play the game, Joey and Hines. They make the game fun and you love playing with them."
Hines and Porter aren't the Steelers' only leaders. Staley was replaced last year, and presumably, can be again.
That's one reason why Cowher considers not having them in the preseason as more of a dress rehearsal than a crisis.
How others respond by stepping up and assuming more of an ownership role in the locker room and in the way the Steelers conduct their business will reveal to Cowher the club's collective mettle in dealing with such adversities.
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