Maurkice Pouncey was one of the most important draft picks the Pittsburgh Steelers have made during the Mike Tomlin era. A first-round selection in 2010, he was a plug-and-play starter at the center position who would go on to have a decorated 11-year career, making the Pro Bowl in each of the nine seasons in which he was healthy for more than eight or nine snaps.
He wasn’t just a great player in his own right, however, but he was also what Tomlin would call an ‘energy-bringer’, and a player who helped to reshape the culture of the team, particularly with respect to the offensive line, which became one of the best in the league in the years that followed his selection.
Pouncey also announced his retirement earlier this month, marking something of the end of an era, a major departure for an offensive line on which he was the leader, the nucleus. And it also meant the departure of Ben Roethlisberger’s closest friend on the team. Would that influence his own future?
“I really can’t comment on how it will affect Ben, because I don’t know how their conversations went”, general manager Kevin Colbert said, when speaking to Missi Matthews for the team’s website yesterday during an exclusive interview.
“Maurkice Pouncey was a great player for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Maurkice got to the point in his own personal life where he felt he wanted to spend more time with his family. And we will always respect that”, he added, remarking on his retirement. But from the front office perspective, it certainly wasn’t a blessing in disguise.
“On the football field, he could still play at a high level, but Maurkice has higher standards for himself maybe than, or higher expectations and standards for himself than maybe some others like myself had”, he said. “Because I still felt he was playing at a high level, but if Maurkice wasn’t playing at an elite level in his eyes, he felt it would be time to move on”.
The Steelers reached the Super Bowl during Pouncey’s rookie season in 2010, but would go on to lose to the Green Bay Packers. Due to a high ankle sprain, he didn’t even get the chance to play. And that would never reach the title game again over the next decade. But that doesn’t diminish what he brought to the team from an individual perspective.
“Maurkice will always be a special Pittsburgh Steeler, whether he’s here or not”, Colbert said, as one of the most recent great Steelers who spent their entire career with the organization. “And he knows that, and we’re just so appreciative of what he did for us during his time here”.