While it certainly wasn’t a shock to the system when Ben Roethlisberger received a text from Maurkice Pouncey on Thursday night being informed of his longtime teammate’s retirement, I’m sure it certainly wasn’t easy for the 17-year veteran Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback to take.
I haven’t done the math, but I don’t think there is a player with whom Roethlisberger ever played longer in his career. Ramon Foster, of course, also played 11 years, so that was an equally long amount of time. but either way, spending 11 years with somebody, you go through a lot together, and you form a bond.
And there is a natural relationship that exists between a center and a quarterback. There aren’t a lot of teammates at those two positions who have spent more time together in recent memory, with Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday being the only duo with more starts together in this century. Of course, they missed about 45 starts just from their season-long injuries in 2013, and 2015, and 2019.
The close bond between the two definitely existed both on and off the field, and Roethlisberger talked to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette yesterday after the news broke to talk about that relationship that comes with a quarterback and his center.
“There’s something different about it. The quarterback-center relationship is unlike any other in sports”, he said. “The relationship and communication you want to have with the one guy in front of you, you genuinely need him more than anything else. That’s what makes the center position so special”.
One might be inclined to compare it to a pitcher and catcher in baseball, but even there, the two spend the vast majority of their time staring down each other from many yards apart. And it’s rare that a catcher ever stops a 300-pounder from tackling their pitcher.
“There’s something about Pounce and that relationship … it’s hard”, the quarterback continued, via Dulac. “The competitiveness, the toughness, the things he went through people will never know about, all the dings, the injuries. It’s truly spectacular that guy lasted as long as he did”.
Roethlisberger said that he wanted to talk to other quarterbacks who also had long relationships with a center and to ask them about how close they were. “I’m sure they’d say he’s one of their best friends”, he said. And he also said “there’s no doubt in my mind” he’s a Hall of Famer.
While I think the jury is somewhat out on whether or not Pouncey will make it into the Hall of Fame, just think about it: how remarkable would it be if Roethlisberger and Pouncey made it in the same class together? I know the odds are against that happening, but it would certainly be fitting.