It was in the season opener against the Ravens in 2013 when the Pittsburgh Steelers suffered a sudden and shocking blow early in the game, with All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey suffering a friendly fire injury that resulted in him tearing his ACL. Not only did it knock him out of the game, it knocked him out for the season.
Yesterday, the Steelers lost Pouncey against the Ravens within the first couple of plays after he suffered a finger injury, reportedly the thumb on his right hand, the hand he uses to snap the ball. He at one point tried to return to the game, but had to leave once again, with first-year backup B.J. Finney playing for the majority of the game.
The nature and severity—not to mention the timing in terms of the season—of the injuries are wildly different, to be sure. It may well be the case that Pouncey doesn’t have to miss any time, even with an injury that could hypothetically impact his ability to consistently hike the ball.
But the impact on each respective game, while not identical, was likely comparable. With the Steelers already at less than full capacity due to the nature of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s status, trying to return from a knee injury three weeks ago, the sudden change at center required an adjustment that was not planned for.
This was especially a problem when you consider that the Ravens have a very good interior defensive line, spearheaded by the excellent nose tackle in Brandon Williams, but also veteran Timmy Jernigan, as well as the undrafted free agent, Michael Pierce.
Just to give some statistics on that, Williams recorded two tackles in the game, both of them run stops. Through his penetration, he also was able to record a batted ball that turned into an interception. Pierce also recorded two tackles, both run stops, including a loss of four yards. Jernigan recorded two tackles—both run stops—and was the one who intercepted the ball that Williams batted into the air.
As well as Finney played filling in at left guard in Week Four, coming off the bench suddenly against the Ravens at center was a tall task for the former undrafted free agent. While I don’t have an overall view of his performance just yet, I do know that he was responsible for some of the negative plays due to missed blocks or lost one-on-one matchups.
That is not to throw Finney to the wolves and put the blame on him, because that is not what I’m doing—at least not just yet, not until I get the opportunity to get a deeper look into the game over the course of the week.
Rather, the point is the illustrate the sort of effect that the sudden loss of Pouncey had on the Steelers’ offense—not just along the interior, but along the entire offensive line. They should have adjusted better to it, but the reality is that they did not.