Whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers are of the belief that they have to play a more physical game than they have played lately really depends upon whom you ask—and perhaps even on what day you ask. Early on in the week, we heard it from head coach Mike Tomlin, and then a number of players echoed that sentiment.
Later on in the week, as reporters continued to ask players for their own thoughts on the question of whether or not they are being physical enough and if anything has changed in their approach in recent weeks that has contributed to their struggles, we have gotten different answers. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva provided an answer for the offensive line on Friday.
“In terms of the change, I feel like the approach is exactly the same, because we have the same routine”, he told reporters. “We show up to work, we have the same mindset. I think that mindset has been established by Maurkice Pouncey. It’s well-documented, he’s the type of person that always demands a little pride in your game, and I think that helps everybody. It’s always good to play with somebody that cares about pride”.
With the retirement of Ramon Foster in the offseason, Pouncey is now the longest-tenured member of the offensive line, and in fact the second-longest-tenured player on the entire roster behind only quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Now in his 11th season, he was the (at the time) rare day-one starter as a rookie first-round pick, immediately being plugged into center over Justin Hartwig, and he made the Pro Bowl that year, as well as every year since then during which he was healthy.
There is a reason that he is also voted as one of the Steelers’ team captains, however, and that is because he brings more than just his play on the field, a fact to which Villanueva alluded in his comments. He is the leader of the offensive line, and that has been the case for a long time.
He is also one of the leaders of the entire team, a frequent go-to for interviews from the media and a surrogate for the locker room. He is one of the emotional centers (no pun intended) of the roster, and players have long gravitated toward him. His ability to keep things consistent allows their approach to remain consistent as well.