Anybody who has followed the Pittsburgh Steelers knows that Maurkice Pouncey has not had the luckiest career. While it got off to a great beginning, becoming an instant starter and Pro Bowler and helping lead his team to a Super Bowl appearance, an injury kept him out of that big moment—and the Steelers have yet to get back there again.
The nine-year veteran has been a Pro Bowler seven times now, and the two misses have come only due to severe, seasoning-ending injuries. About eight snaps into the 2013 season, right guard David DeCastro accidentally cut blocked right into the back of Pouncey’s knee, tearing his ACL.
The center, however, returned for the 2014 season in a fashion I would argue was better than ever. I still maintain that year was the best of his entire career, but that wouldn’t last long. He would then suffer another freak injury, fracturing his fibula in the 2015 preseason after he got rolled up on from behind while blocking downfield on a play.
That injury not only ended his season, it damn near ended his career. He had to undergo repeated follow-up surgical operations, in part to deal with multiple infections. We was never initially ruled out for the season, but it became apparent that that would not be the case.
Truth be told, I’m of the belief that he struggled in his return. 2016 was his worst season, and he was still shaky a year ago. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, while he made the Pro Bowl in both of those seasons, he failed even by name recognition to retain his status on the All-Pro list.
With the 2018 season, however, Pouncey seemed to find that former gear that he used to possess prior to his severe fibula injury and put together his most consistent season since 2014. And that got him back on the All-Pro list as the second-team center.
While he was not the only Steeler deserving, he was the only one that made it this year, and I think it’s a testament to his resilience. Sometimes the road to recovery from an injury for an athlete takes more than a year, or even two. I do believe that he has continued to improve from a physical standpoint in each of the past three years, and that it has translated to his on-field success.
Pouncey is now a five-time All-Pro, earning first-team recognition in 2011 and 2014, in addition to being a seven-time Pro Bowler. He will enter his age-30 season in 2019 having just displayed that he is playing at the highest level that he has in years.
This doesn’t even account for his importance in the locker room in holding people accountable. As one of the longest-tenured and most accomplished—and most vocal—in the locker room, Pouncey’s words carry weight, and he has been willing to use them. His leadership may be as important as it has ever been as the Steelers navigate some troubled waters this offseason.