The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.
Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the optimist’s take on the following question.
Question: How will Maurkice Pouncey bounce back from injury after missing the entirety of the 2015 season?
Off the top of my head, it is hard for me to come up with many examples of players who have shown themselves to be as skilled as is Steelers All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey, yet so beset by injury misfortunes that are outside of his control.
The seventh-year veteran has missed, essentially, two full seasons over the course of the past three years due to fluke incidents, in 2013 tearing an ACL after an inadvertent friendly fire cut block eight snaps into the season, and in 2015 tearing an Achilles after being rolled up on blocking downfield in the preseason.
Pouncey bounced back in truly remarkable fashion during the 2014 season, playing what I believe to be his best professional season to date, earning his second first-team All-Pro not and fourth Pro Bowl selection—one for each of the seasons in which he has been predominantly healthy.
That should, at least hopefully, serve as a sort of barometer for how he will return from this latest injury, even if it has appeared to be more complicated than initially anticipated. Pouncey was placed on the short-term injured reserve list with a return designation, but was clearly never able to return, presumably as complications arose. Rumors of a second surgery have been spoken.
It will have been over a year since the injury, however, by the time the Steelers play their next significant snap, and the former first-round draft pick already has an impressive history of returning to full form from injury, a fact that also extends into his collegiate career.
The growth, and retention, of the Steelers adjacent starting guards should only ease his return to the lineup in 2016, as they each have served as a stabilizing presence for a unit that has routinely lacked stability or consistency in recent years.
I have no medical background, nor first-hand knowledge of the current progress of his rehabilitation or general health status, but I have to believe that long-term concerns over his ability are to be regarded as premature at best at this stage of the game. It helps that he still has youth on his side, just 26 as of this moment, as he bounces back in style from yet another major injury.