It’s safe to say no one took Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement harder than Ben Roethlisberger. Even though he could sense it coming, the two shedding a tear on the bench after their Wild Card loss to the Cleveland Browns, it was no secret how close the two were.
Roethlisberger opened up about handling Pouncey moving on with life’s work in a new interview with Andrea Fappani and his show “Along for the Ride with Andrea Fappani.” Roethlisberger said Pouncey’s retirement caused him to wonder if he should walk away from football as well.
“I was debating on whether I was going to come back this year, and once he retired, I was like I don’t know if I want to play without him,” Roethlisberger said, as transcribed by Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley. “I still have a love for it and gas left in the tank, so I want to give it another shot. It’s not going to be the same without him. That is one of the biggest killers going into this year, not having that guy with me because he is the best.”
Pouncey had been Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ center since 2010. The pair had always said they planned on retiring together. But Pouncey decided to hang up his cleats this year, joining his twin brother, while Roethlisberger ultimately decided to return for at least one more season. His return seems to be centered around his arm and body feeling good coupled with his competitive drive to win another Super Bowl.
Roethlisberger went on to praise the player and person Pouncey was.
“We were together 11 years. Probably the greatest teammate I ever played with. I think he is the best that has ever played the position. We have such a chemistry, relationship. We are good friends.”
The Steelers are now in the midst of searching for Pouncey’s replacement. Step one was bringing back BJ Finney, who started a handful of games at center in Pittsburgh before leaving for Seattle last offseason. But that won’t be their only move. They’re expected to draft one, sooner than later, this April. Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey, Alabama’s Landon Dickerson, and Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz are all possible options.
Pittsburgh’s offensive line may undergo more changes this offseason. LT Alejandro Villanueva and LG Matt Feiler are set to hit free agency. Villanueva is likely to leave, though that door hasn’t completely closed, while Feiler feels like a 50/50 shot to return. My recent free agency prediction had Villanueva signing elsewhere but Feiler returning, kicking back out to right tackle.