Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers as a whole struggled to run the ball on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, not everybody had a rough day working in the ground game. Newly minted Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, in fact, put in some good work in that department working against Kansas City’s defensive interior, nose tackle Dontari Poe in particular.
Take the first play of the game, for example, which translated in the end to just a two-yard run by Le’Veon Bell. The Steelers lined up with two tight ends and Will Johnson in the backfield, with David DeCastro pulling along with the fullback to lead Bell around the left side.
The play was slow to develop, with the linebacker closing in on Johnson in the backfield, which forced Bell to cut the run inside. Because Pouncey did a nice job of wrestling with Poe on the inside, however, it gave the back just a sliver of daylight through which to gain some positive yardage.
A few plays later in the drive, after his big 44-yard reception, the Steelers used wide receiver Martavis Bryant on an end around, and Pouncey did his part to keep the athletic nose tackle tucked inside and unable to pursue to the perimeter. With Bell misdirecting to the right, Pouncey let Poe walk inside, sealing him off to the left as Bryant took the toss and found space for nine yards on the play.
On the next play, Pouncey and left guard Ramon Foster double teamed on Poe on a run that looked to go off the center’s right, but with Marcus Gilbert slipping off his block as DeCastro veered off to another defender, Bell was hit near the line of scrimmage, unable to take advantage of the big hole up the middle that would have otherwise been available to him.
As the drive wound down to the end and the Steelers found themselves within the Chiefs’ 10-yard line, they turned back to the ground game on second and three, breaking out a run set with one receiver on the field.
Unfortunately, Bell was stopped after a two-yard gain, and the Steelers eventually had to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown on that opening drive. But Pouncey and DeCastro did a good job of clearing out the middle of the defense, with the two doubling up Poe before Pouncey veered off to check the linebacker at the second level.
It wasn’t all in the running game in which Pouncey showed well, however, as this late third quarter play shows. The center had to bide his time as Ben Roethlisberger held on to the ball for about five seconds before throwing down the field. Poe lined up split between center and left guard, but when Allen Bailey tucked around inside, Pouncey picked him up and gave his quarterback the space to throw.