With the Pittsburgh Steelers having completed the first portion of their season, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this year and give out some midseason player evaluations.
The team has had a rocky but ultimately successful season to date, coming out of the first six games with a winning record despite being 1-2-1 just two weeks ago. Coming off of consecutive strong victories with improve play from both sides of the ball, things are looking up.
The offense has done its part for the most part, but has taken some long vacations. Their disappearing acts in the second half was perplexing, but that has improved. Defensively, the secondary is seemingly becoming a bit more stable after being nothing short of terrible previously, but there are absolutely some real concerns remaining.
Player: Maurkice Pouncey, C
It’s almost hard to believe that Maurkice Pouncey has had to deal with some major injuries over the course of his career. The ninth-year veteran has suffered two season-ending injuries, one of which he believed might end his career, but the most recent was back in 2015 already, and he has hardly missed a snap since, two games of rest notwithstanding.
It’s also somewhat hard to believe because he still remains so athletic, showing rare ability to pull for a center. This was particularly prominent in the Steelers’ last game against the Cincinnati Bengals, in which he featured on two long runs in front of James Conner up the right sideline.
Pouncey did have his worst couple of games in the first two weeks of the season—a lot of linemen had their worst game in week two—but he has picked things up as the season has progressed. As mentioned, the Bengals game was his best, but he also played very well against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as well.
Frankly, I don’t study enough tape from centers all around the league for me to really say that he is still a top five center in the NFL. I personally don’t believe that he is as good as he was before his serious leg injury. But he is so far having his best season since that injury.
And hopefully he is only getting started in terms of that best season. The offensive line as a whole has the look of a group that has the potential to really take off and carry the offense, especially over the course of the past couple of games.
But Pouncey—and Ramon Foster—have long been the heart and soul of the group. They have frankly not played nearly as well when he hasn’t been in there, and I think that’s the greatest testament to what he means to the team.