It was a number of years ago that Maurkice Pouncey first said he would hang it up when Ben Roethlisberger does. He wanted Big Ben to be the only quarterback he ever snapped to on a full-time basis. But as Roethlisberger has in more recent years toyed with retirement, and now after injury, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ center has hedged more on his future.
Heading into his 11th season, the former first-round draft pick isn’t putting any kind of timetable on his future. Now 31 years old, and tied to the team through the 2021 season after signing a new two-year extension last March, he’s just out there to play, for as long as he can.
“For me personally, it’s just all about having fun and enjoying it”, he told reporters earlier today. “For me, contract’s not an issue, years in the league is not an issue. I think for me, it’s just, every day I’m coming in and enjoying it still. I think the fact that the guys we’re bringing up—we’ve got a good young group—the guys are still motivated, and I feel like I can still do it at a very high level, so until someone proves me otherwise, I’ll be playing”.
The Steelers’ selection of Pouncey back in 2010 was the first step in a multi-tiered plan in the very necessary reconstruction of the offensive line. Though that plan didn’t always work out, they were able to piecemeal one of the best lines in the league over the better part of the past decade.
Ramon Foster, an undrafted free agent in 2009, proved to be an eventual staple. Marcus Gilbert and David DeCastro followed Pouncey in successive years. In between, there was Kelvin Beachum, who was the seventh-round pick to Mike Adams’ second-round selection. The former was succeeded by Alejandro Villanueva, who was 25 and cut several times by various teams by that point, and is now a two-time Pro Bowler.
The changes continue to be ongoing, but Pouncey and DeCastro in the middle have been the bedrock, and they remain perennial Pro Bowlers. Pouncey, in fact, has made the Pro Bowl for every season of his career for which he has been healthy, now with eight. He is a five-time All-Pro, most recently in 2018, twice on the first team.
His play last season was criticized heavily by outlets such as Pro Football Focus, but outside of a rash of bad snaps, it wasn’t nearly the sort of dropoff that some would suggest, and much of it could be tied to working with a different quarterback—or multiple different quarterbacks.
Steelers great Mike Webster played 15 seasons for the Steelers through his age-36 season—then played two more with the Kansas City Chiefs. Dermontti Dawson had a 13-year career, playing through his age-35 season. There is precedent in Pittsburgh for longevity at Pouncey’s position, that much is certain.