I've tried starting Legendary Heroes directly via the program folder icon, but it still insists on launching Steam.
Other Stardock games can bypass Steam. In fact, my Political Machine Install wouldn't run anymore through the Steam Client, but by changing my shortcut to the program.exe directly, it was able to run perfectly fine, with no Steam required/running in the background/starting up. My GalCiv2 and E:WOM installs are run directly from the EXE, and do not invoke Steam.
BTW, I use offline mode a lot in Steam, and I haven't had to log into Steam for a bit online, although it did download a Steam update that didn't take recently...
As to the side discussion (Steam/DRM), well it wasn't that long ago that Brad was a champion for DRM free, and indeed there are several interviews on the net where he was quoted as such. Steam is NOT DRM free, as for the more recent programs you can't launch them without having Steam in the background (E:LH specifically, and I'm guessing GalCivIII will have this as well).
It's just sad to see Brad change his stance on something that matters to a large number of gamers.