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mesaSteeler
09-25-2010, 08:49 AM
[ Former Dreadnaught, Gator ]

A Rare Find: Pouncey Is Exceeding Expectations in Pittsburgh
http://www.theledger.com/article/20100924/NEWS/9245096/1254?p=all&tc=pgall
By Rick Brown
THE LEDGER

Published: Friday, September 24, 2010 at 11:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 24, 2010 at 11:59 p.m.


TAMPA | There are a few occasions when Maurkice Pouncey shows his age.

Sometimes his mind wonders when he's in the Pittsburgh Steelers' huddle and sees veteran receiver Hines Ward. Or when the center is about to snap the ball and the quarterback receiving it is Charlie Batch, Pouncey just shakes his head.

"When I first saw Charlie, I was like, 'Hey, that's Charlie Batch,'" Pouncey said. "I used to watch him as a young kid."

But those occasions when the rookie from Lakeland High School finds himself awestruck are few.

In fact, Pouncey has played with the poise of a veteran. That's why it will be his job to protect Batch on Sunday when the Steelers travel to Tampa to take on the Bucs.

He's expecting a small contingent of about 12 family and friends to be at the game.

"That's going to be crazy," said the 21-year-old Pouncey, who grew up a Buccaneer fan. "Every time I think about it, it's a great feeling. I'm going to be back home in Florida. It's going to be nice to get back to hot weather, real hot weather."

Pouncey, who was selected with the 18th overal pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, is the first center ever picked by the Steelers in the first round. He's also the Steelers' first rookie starting center since the 1960s.

The Steelers had every intention of bringing Pouncey along slowly, wanting him to work at both guard and center and get spot duty his rookie season.

But Pouncey had other plans. He engulfed himself in the playbook, studying day and night, whenever he could. Then he had a brilliant training camp that forced the Steelers to put him on the field.

"The reason he's in there is, quite frankly, he's not playing like a rookie," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's really exceeded our expectations in terms of his development within the system - the responsibilities of playing center in terms of identifying fronts and so forth. He's really mature beyond his years in that way and that's why he's been given the opportunity.

"Now once given the opportunity, of course, he's proven he's a quality player, a unique talent." Tomlin said. "He's going to be a really good player. Of course he's not a finished product as we sit here today, but we're very excited and enthused about where he is."

Tampa Bay center Jeff Faine followed a similar path as Pouncey. He was a first-round pick out of Notre Dame and started his rookie year.

"Beyond the quarterback, it's the hardest position to start at as a rookie in the NFL," said Faine, who is entering his eighth year in the league. "It's competitively challenging. You're dealing not only with the physical aspect of it, but also the mental aspect of it at the same time."

Even Pouncey cannot believe how his journey to the NFL has gone.

When he left Lakeland to go to Florida, Pouncey was one of the nation's top prospects at offensive guard.

He was just the seventh true freshman to start a season opener for the Gators.

During his freshman season with the Gators, he started 11 games at right guard and graded no lower than 83 percent for blocking consistency in any of his starting assignments. For that, he was named Freshman All-American by College Football News and Rivals.com.

But at the beginning of his sophomore year, the Gators asked him to move to center.

"I was hesitant about it," he admitted. "I was coming off a good freshman season. But I did it, and it was the best move I did in my life."

He played and started the next 28 games for Florida. By the end of his junior year, Pouncey was an All-American and became the first Gator to win the Rimington Trophy, given to the nation's best center.

He declared for the NFL Draft following his junior season. Now, he'll enter Raymond James Stadium leading the Pittsburgh offense on Sunday.

"Playing for Florida was great," Pouncey said. "But now, you're at the level you wanted to be at your whole life. It's crazy. When you come through that tunnel and see all fans, screaming your name and waving those terrible towels, it gives you confidence at what you do. This is great." :tt04::tt04::tt04:

[ Rick Brown can be reached at 863-802-7569 or rick.brown@theledger.com. ]

Tone's Toes
09-25-2010, 09:40 AM
He'll be a good one. He'll have ups and downs this year like any rookie. Good in week 1 and not quite as good last week. The heat and guys around him dropping like flies didn't help him much though. Gotta get on the same page as the QB with those snaps more than anything.

scsteeler
09-25-2010, 09:54 AM
Pouncey should be the next great Steeler Center.

LVSteelersfan
09-25-2010, 11:18 AM
Pouncey is the man. Watching him hit those linebackers is what excites me. Hartwig never got to the second level and usually got pushed backwards into Ben. It is so nice having someone who not only holds his ground but pushes his man out of the way and then finds another one to smash into.

DanRooney
09-25-2010, 02:08 PM
Don't let Tomlin fool you. If it hadn't been for Hartwig nursing an injury he'd still be our starter until about week 10. Just look at Randle El. Taking every big play away so Tomlin can get a stiffy watching dropped passes and fair catches.

MasterOfPuppets
09-25-2010, 05:03 PM
to bad pounceys work will be negated by inconsistent play from his fellow linemen.
hopefully they'll continue to invest higher draft choices to continue to rebuild the line.

Steelerfreak58
09-25-2010, 05:26 PM
If the rest of the line can play half as good as he has we will be in another Super Bowl this year.

steelerchad
09-25-2010, 06:48 PM
Pouncey and Timmons are the bright spots for me this year. Excited about the play of both so far. Before you say what about Troy, Harrison, Woodley and the rest of the defense. Well....I've come to expect perfection from all of them already.

kirklandrules
09-25-2010, 08:36 PM
It all starts at the center position. Don't be surprised so see this line come together by mid season because of Pouncey's play and leadership. Seeing the rookie center hustle and consistently block at the second level may just get those other fat slobs working a little harder.

steeltheone
09-25-2010, 09:19 PM
Don't let Tomlin fool you. If it hadn't been for Hartwig nursing an injury he'd still be our starter until about week 10. Just look at Randle El. Taking every big play away so Tomlin can get a stiffy watching dropped passes and fair catches.

Very true...He sticks with vets to long!

rick723
09-25-2010, 09:28 PM
Very true...He sticks with vets to long!

That's why Vince coached the fudge packers and not the Stillers!
Just killin time before the game. Vince was a great coach

jjpro11
09-25-2010, 09:47 PM
i am still amazed at how fast he has come along.. he should still be playing college football, instead he is the starting center for the Steelers at the age of 21. i was worried about the pick when we made it, but damn i am glad we made it.

pancake
09-25-2010, 09:56 PM
I just hope we can add more talent around him next year. I was hoping Dixon would play really well and allow us to trade him for a decent pick to use on the OL... I think Pouncey will be in a probowl in a season or two.

MikeHaullace
09-25-2010, 11:35 PM
Pouncey should be the next great Steeler Center.

Easily.

I hope to see Dermontti Dawson 2.0 in a few years. Time will tell.

Riddle_Of_Steel
09-25-2010, 11:45 PM
Especially of note, is this guy has heart.

This last game in Tennessee, he was the only Olineman that was in there for EVERY snap (could be also that he grew up in that stifling heat, so he's more used to it).

His playing style is starting to rub off on the other guys too-- I saw Kemo and even the Hotel going downfield after taking on their guys to find somebody else to hit. Our Zierlen-coached Oline used to go into spectator mode after making their initial block, but I guess they must feel silly to see the rookie running downfield and hunting for other defenders to take out when they are standing around with their thumbs you-know-where! Go Pouncey!

Also, Sean Kugler has so far been a great pickup this offseason that few people are talking about. WHile our Oline is still struggling with the injury bug, I do see a marked improvement in technique and aggression since the days of Zierlen's Oline.

MikeHaullace
09-25-2010, 11:48 PM
(could be also that he grew up in that stifling heat, so he's more used to it).

He's down with the pickle juice too, I bet.