While the Pittsburgh Steelers and Maurkice Pouncey were able to knock a game off, the veteran center will still have to serve a two-game suspension for the role that he played in the melee that served as the denouement in their loss to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night, during which time he can’t be around the team.
Pouncey, who is currently the leading vote-getter at the center position for the Pro Bowl, which is pretty much always the case, had hardly missed a snap over the course of the past few years, at least due to injury. This will be the longest stretch the line will be without him since he nearly had his career ended with a broken leg in 2015.
The only games he’s missed since then were the season finales of the 2016 and 2017 seasons, during which time the Steelers had already secured either their best and worst possible postseason seeding, or at least had earned a bye week. He has only missed a handful of snaps otherwise.
“He’s a go-to guy”, fellow captain Cameron Heyward said of the only other former Steelers first-round pick not on the Reseve/Injured List who has been in the league longer. “He’s a guy that you could rely on, who’s gotten the job done, who excels against anybody that he goes against”.
Now they’re going to have to face the Cincinnati Bengals and then the Browns again without him, not just in the game, but in the week of preparation, and in the locker room. Heyward, in fact, will be the only one among the team’s four captains available to play Sunday.
B.J. Finney, the fourth-year reserve interior lineman who has started the only games Pouncey didn’t play in since his last significant injury, will be the one called upon once again to take his place. Outside of Patrick Morris, recently called up from the practice squad, he’s the only one with meaningful experience at center.
“I know we’re gonna be missing him for a little bit of time, but B.J.’s gotta step up, and the other o-linemen have got to pick him up around him”, Heyward said of how the team has to weather the storm without Pouncey in the building. Finney did previously start this season at left guard, and has 10 starting in total during his career, including at least two at all three interior offensive line positions.
Interestingly, this two-game stint could make it a lot harder for the Steelers to retain Finney beyond this season, as he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020. While he has a decent body of work to sort from, you know recency bias is always a thing, and this is his chance to put down quality tape at the center position, expanding his resume in the process.