While there were a lot of things to take away from Thursday’s loss to the Cleveland Browns, the one thing that will actually have prolonged repercussions for the Pittsburgh Steelers will be the suspension received by center Maurkice Pouncey for the role that he played in the melee that ended the game.
After Browns defender Myles Garrett committed an uncalled roughing the passer penalty on third and 29 with 14 seconds remaining, Mason Rudolph responded by trying to dislodge the defender’s helmet. He responded by yanking the quarterback up by his facemask and ripping his helmet off. After Rudolph got up and pursued him, Garrett struck him over the head with the helmet.
That is the point at which Pouncey retaliated as David DeCastro was working to restrain him and bring him to the ground. The veteran center took several swings and one kick at Garrett as he was going to the ground and while he was down, though most didn’t land and he didn’t exactly do any damage.
For his actions, he received a three-game suspension, though he will be appealing that suspension today, in the hopes of at least reducing it. Even barring the unlikely event that we see that happen, B.J. Finney for the time being is the team’s starting center while he is away.
And as a fourth-year veteran with 10 starts under his belt, including two at center, the offensive line is comfortable with him. “Luckily, Finney has experience”, DeCastro told Joe Rutter. “It’s hard when guys don’t have experience. Finney does. He’s not Pouncey. Pouncey is who he is, but he’s done great when he’s filled in before, and I expect him to do it again”.
While Finney has started a game as recently as a couple of weeks ago, at left guard in place of Ramon Foster—he started two games at right guard in 2018 for DeCastro—he has not started a game at center since the end of the 2017 season, and he left that contest with an injury. He also started the finale of the 2016 season, which was the worst game of his career.
Finney’s first challenge will be to work against Geno Atkins and Andrew Billings along the defensive interior line of the Cincinnati Bengals. The latter is more of a run-stuffer, but he is a load in that capacity, and we know how good Atkins can be.
The Steelers could be without Pouncey for up to three games, and the rest of the line is just going to have to step up in the meantime. They have weathered injuries to Foster already this year, even shifting players around. This is just the latest challenge in a season that has been filled with them.