Injury-prone. The best center in the National Football League. Those two associations often don’t go together, but in the case of Maurkice Pouncey, these have both praised and plagued him throughout the past several years.
I don’t buy into the “injury-prone” title , because a couple of these injuries, including his ACL/MCL tear, were simply unlucky. However, some are questioning his ability to bounce back after yet another injury. And though the season has yet to begin, I feel confident saying he will be back to his old ways of dominating in both pass protection and the run-game.
Of course we know his history with injuries by now, so I don’t intend to dwell on that, but I’ll offer a quick synopsis.
He was drafted in 2010, and sustained a variety of injuries throughout the latter part of the season. It was more of the same in 2011 and he missed just a little time in 2012. 2013 is when he was lost the second half of the season due to a torn ACL and MCL after teammate David DeCastro’s attempted cut block went awry. And then came last season, when he suffered a broken fibula which required two surgeries.
A number of these injuries can easily be deemed as “fluke” ones, so I would caution others not to put so much weight on his recent injuries. We’ve seen how Adrian Peterson battled back from a devastating knee injury only to approach nearly 2,000 yards the following season. And let’s not forget Pouncey’s production in 2014, which earned him the 83rd best player of the season as voted on by his peers (the only center on the list). This was only 2 season’s ago.
The guy has been through a lot. And his teammates say he’s worked extremely hard to continually overcome these adversities. I have little reason to believe he won’t remain a top center in the league.
And I’ll go even a bit further to say he’s the best center in the NFL.
His combination of size, athleticism and versatility make him a valuable asset that could fit into every scheme. But most importantly, he fits extremely well into the Steelers’ offense. We all know that if you want to be a great center in this league, you have to be able to handle some of the biggest, strongest players on this planet: noseguards. Pouncey, at 6’4” and just over 300 lbs, can do just that.
But what separates him is his equal ability to pull, trap, and get to the second level. It’s hard to find centers who can do all of these. It’s even harder to find centers who can do this consistently and at an elite level.
Pouncey’s speed and athleticism allows him to pull and work as a lead-blocker, getting to the outside quickly, while possessing the strength and size to effectively take pursuing linemen and linebackers out of the play. His trapping ability shouldn’t go unnoticed either. When defensive linemen are lined up directly on the guards, Pouncey is able to pull and trap the defender on either side, which pairs well with Le’Veon Bell’s patient running attack. And we all know the Steelers are known to throw in some zone-run schemes in there as well. For this to work, it’s imperative for centers and other lineman to quickly get the second level and take out the linebackers. Pouncey does this as well as any lineman in the league.
He’s a veteran now, but remember that he gains two extra seasons of not banging heads with linebackers and noseguards, so there’s a silver lining to his injury riddled years. He’s been called a “once in a generation” player, and the Steelers are more than happy to have that kind of impactful presence back on the field.