For the fourth time in five seasons, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey has earned himself Pro Bowl accolades, an honor that he certainly earned this year, especially considering the fact that he was coming off an ACL tear.
Other than a few penalty concerns throughout the year, Pouncey put together a pretty consistent season in terms of run blocking and pass protecting, with a blip here and there. Despite playing well overall, for example, he had a few breakdowns in the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals that came in a variety of forms.
The second play of the game was not one of those breakdowns. In fact, it showed Pouncey and the offensive line very effectively executing the screen game, which is not something that can often be said.
Off the snap, Pouncey and Ramon Foster got off the ball and double teamed the defensive tackle, forcing him inside with Pouncey holding him there while Foster moved to find somebody else to block. Along with a David DeCastro chip block down the field, the line opened up a hole for Le’Veon Bell to pick up 22 yards.
On the Steelers’ second drive, however, which started backed up deep in their own end, Pouncey slipped off a block on second down that got Bell tackled early. Ben Roethlisberger couldn’t connect on third down, forcing the Steelers to go three and out. Pouncey jumped out to the second level, but Ray Maualuga was able to shed him and get after Bell to set up third and short.
Toward the end of the first quarter, in a span of three plays, Pouncey showed both the highs and the lows. On the first play, he did an excellent job in pass protection, sealing down on the initial defender, and then picking up the stunt late.
But then, two plays later, he misidentified a call from Roethlisberger and snapped the ball early. Nobody was prepared for the snap, and the ball bounced off the quarterback’s shin, recovered by the Bengals.
Midway through the second quarter, after Roethlisberger missed Heath Miller in the middle of the end zone on a high pass on second and long, the Steelers settled for a delayed draw, but Pouncey slipping off his block minimized the play’s chances of success.
On third and eight, Pouncey came off the ball veering to the second level, shadowing Vincent Rey, but he allowed the linebacker to get on his outside shoulder and was able to shed the block, making the primary tackle on Bell.
Later in the quarter, he did get another opportunity to lead Bell down the field on the move on a passing play, which has been a successful combination this season. Pouncey got out to his right and caught the edge of the linebacker as Bell set up the block for an eight-yard gain on first down.