Credit to JC Hassenauer for stepping into Maurkice Pouncey’s shoes. Hassenauer isn’t the next great Pittsburgh Steelers’ center but he got thrown into the fire before the Baltimore Ravens game and made another start against Washington Football Team. Largely, he avoided disaster and any game-costing plays, and Ben Roethlisberger has rightly given him credit. But Roethlisberger said he can’t wait to get Pouncey back in the lineup, something that’s expected to happen for Sunday night’s game against the Buffalo Bills.
Talking to reporters Wednesday, Roethlisberger spoke to what Pouncey means to him and the offense.
“Pouncey is Pouncey,” he said via the team’s YouTube channel. “We’ve been together for a long time. He’s been a comfort blanket. He is, my opinion, the best in the business. He is a Hall of Fame center. Any time you’ve got that guy up there not just physically in terms of what he can do and brings to the game but emotionally, mentally, he is that lynchpin up front. I always say we go as they go up front, and he’s the main guy up there.”
Injury aside from a lost 2013 season, Pouncey has been the Steelers’ starting center for 130 of the team’s last 144 regular season games and with Roethlisberger for most of that time. The two have a well-documented relationship. Pouncey is arguably his closest friend currently on the roster and you see that throughout the season. Go to a training camp and you’ll see the two joking around, one-upping each other in the “crossbar challenge” of hitting the crossbar from the furthest distance (it’s surprisingly competitive).
Roethlisberger said not only will he feel more comfortable with Pouncey in the lineup, so will the rest of the line.
“They will all feel more comfortable if Pouncey’s back. I will feel more comfortable. He’s our captain for a reason. He’s the best of the business, and I hope we get him back.”
Pouncey is expected to come off the COVID list before Sunday’s game against Buffalo. The same Bills’ defense that terrorized the Steelers’ with their blitz schemes last season. Granted, Pouncey was part of the line that game but the offense was also without Ben Roethlisberger. With both back, they’ll hopefully handle Buffalo’s pressure – they’re 8th in blitz rate – better than a year ago. And keep Roethlisberger’s sack streak alive. He needs just two more sackless pass attempts to have the second longest streak since the 1970 merger.