Today is the fifth and final installment in a series of thoughts on specific Steelers’ players as we approach Training Camp in late July. I’ll be focusing on a variety of players whose personal success this season could determine the team’s overall success in 2016.
Series One: Ladarius Green
Series Two: Mike Mitchell
Series Three: Chris Boswell
Series Four: Javon Hargrave
Perhaps this is the most obvious of all five of my selections for the Summer Series but Maurkice Pouncey could not go unmentioned. The All-Pro center of the Pittsburgh Steelers did not play a single down in the 2015 season and had seven procedures performed on his broken ankle.
Much like people will discuss with Le’Veon Bell, Pouncey’s injuries have been anything but his own fault, but they are significant injuries nonetheless. Pouncey also missed all but the early stages of the first game in 2013 so in the last three seasons of professional football Pouncey has played in just 17 of those.
While those that have spelled Pouncey (mostly Cody Wallace) have performed admirably, the presence of Pouncey allows Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley to use the entire playbook, especially as it pertains to the running game.
I’ve always called Pouncey a “mobile” center while a guy like Wallace is much more of a traditional “anchor” center. The difference is that while both are good in their own space, Pouncey’s athleticism allows him to pull both right and left from his center position. This is a huge asset that not all teams posses.
As the Steelers’ offensive line exists now, Haley feels very comfortable having David DeCastro pull from his right guard spot. The same can’t be said for left guard Ramon Foster who doesn’t move as well as DeCastro. With a healthy Pouncey, Haley can now get Bell and DeAngelo Williams moving both left and right with more balance.
If Pouncey is taken away from this equation, then the running game becomes lop-sided and ultimately is easier for opposing defenses to diagnose.
Yes, Maurkice Pouncey has been the unfortunate victim of “friendly fire” but he’s been injured and absent from his center position far too often. The Steelers were able to make the postseason without him last year but his availability in 2016 could be the difference between the playoffs and the Super Bowl.
Photo courtesy: athlonsports.com