Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey has been saying for years now that when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger calls it a career, he is going to do so as well. That might be slightly hyperbolic, or perhaps not. It may depend upon how much longer Roethlisberger sticks around.
But either way it works out, the point is that the two players have a special bond both on and off the field. When Landry Jones was in his first couple of seasons, the Steelers would not even let him take snaps from Pouncey, putting in a second-string center, until he ‘earned’ it. He would only snap to Roethlisberger.
Make of that what you will (and clearly that has changed—Mason Rudolph has already worked with Pouncey), but it’s just another anecdote that exhibits the connection between Roethlisberger and the center that he has worked with for the majority of his career.
“Ben makes football easy”, Pouncey told the team’s website during a weekend locker room interview session about playing with Roethlisberger. “He is a heck of a quarterback. He is a Hall of Fame first ballot guy. Whenever you have a quarterback like that, football is fun and easy”.
A rookie starter as a first-round pick in 2010, Pouncey has been a stalwart performer throughout his eight-year career, with the only blemishes coming in 2013 and 2015, seasons in which he missed all or very nearly all of the entire year due to injuries. He has made at least the Pro Bowl, if not the All-Pro team, in every other season.
Roethlisberger has long valued close relationships with his offensive linemen, but I don’t know that he has ever been closer to any than Pouncey, though others such as Willie Colon and Max Starks probably come pretty close. The Steelers’ current center is fiercely loyal and protective of his quarterback.
So it’s no surprise that he was among those most concerned last week when Roethlisberger went down during a practice session. A defender had gotten tangled with Marcus Gilbert at right tackle, and eventually led to a collision with the quarterback. He fell to the ground, losing his helmet, and possibly suffered some whiplash.
Fortunately, he was placed into the concussions protocol and quickly removed, indicating that there were no issues. A minor scare that avoided anything more serious. And it is serious, especially when Roethlisberger has previously gone on record in a very vocal manner about how his concussion history will affect his decision to continue playing.
When he talked about potentially retiring last season, Pouncey owned up to his previous comment about going out with his quarterback, but he added that he’s not ready himself and wants to see Roethlisberger give it at least a couple more years. It’s his job to keep the quarterback upright; the better he is at his job, the longer he will have Roethlisberger around to protect, and the more fun he will have.