10-year veteran center Maurkice Pouncey is undoubtedly one of the most beloved players in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room. A day-one starter as a 21-year-old back in 2010, he has gone on to make the Pro Bowl in every year he’s been healthy, and has been a leader for some time, even rising to captain.
And the Steelers will now be without him for up to the next three games, after the league handed down a suspension of that duration for his role in the melee that served as the denouement for Pittsburgh’s loss to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday.
After Myles Garrett struck quarterback Mason Rudolph on his bare head with the man’s own helmet, Pouncey went after the Browns defender, throwing multiple punches as well as a kick in the process. After the game, he told reporters that he couldn’t even recall the specifics of what he had done, that he had ‘blacked out’.
No matter what happened or why, the long and short of it is that he is not going to be on the field, for presumably the next three games (as of the time of this writing; he has already had his appeal heard, but a ruling wasn’t available when writing this).
“That’s the last thing we need”, All-Pro guard David DeCastro told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of playing a stretch of games without their leader in the group. Fellow captain Cameron Heyward called him “the backbone of this offense”, the “one that stirs the drink. Everybody feeds off his energy, he sets the tempo in his offensive line group, and he’s respected by his teammates”.
Truth be told, even Cleveland Browns defenders had Pouncey’s back. For example, Sheldon Richardson told reporters this week that he would have probably gone a similar route had it been his teammate on the other end of that blow to the head.
“I never expected it to go this way”, Heyward added of the offense being down Pouncey during his suspension. “We’ve had some injuries and things have happened. Those guys are going to lead in different ways, whether it’s off the field or getting guys ready and continue to communicate. When you get that ‘C’, there is a respect and consistency that you are always used to”.
The good news is that the offensive line is a veteran-laden group, with even right tackle Matt Feiler a third-year guy who has been in the Steelers’ system for five years. B.J. Finney, who will start in Pouncey’s place, has also been in Pittsburgh for five years.