The Steelers Young Money crew did not live up to expectations in 2012, and that may be as big a reason as any why the Steelers slithered to 8-8 and missed the playoffs. What might have been done to prevent that? • They probably could have used the leadership that Hines Ward brought to their meeting room. The youngsters -- Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown -- not only did not perform up to expectations, sources say they needed someone to keep them in line as well, that they became more selfish in 2013.

Ward wanted to come back, and while the Steelers decided he no longer could perform well enough on the field for them to give him one more year, they badly understated his influence on their receiving corps.

"They have a bunch of young, talented guys," Ward said in a recent interview. "The organization chose to go young and in a different direction. My argument was, 'Great, but I don't think any of those guys other than Mike Wallace were in crucial situations to ask them to carry the load.

"They were asked to be put into a huge role at such a young age. I had to deal with it. I was a veteran guy my second year. It's a learning curve for those guys. The transition going to next year, maybe they'll learn from their mistakes.

"I love everything about those guys. I wish them nothing but the best with those guys. ... Hopefully, the light bulb will turn on for those guys and they'll understand what the profession is on and off field.

"With A.B., Mike and Emmanuel, sometimes it takes more than work ethic. You have to put in the time both at work and home to take care of your body and your playbook."

Ward believes the defense remains in good hands, but they have to find a premier running back to make Todd Haley's offense go.

"They're a team in transition, losing some of the older guys. The marquee names are getting older, and it's time for younger guys to step up.

"On defense, they're still playing good football. They'll always finish in the top five. In the secondary, Keenan Lewis had a big year, Ike Taylor is getting older, and there's a transition. You have to find some young stars to step up their play and allow them to be consistent.

"On offense, all those guys are young. Maurkice Pouncey is still young, and they have some new draft picks in the line.