Steelers' Maurkice Pouncey brings a championship resume
By Gary Mihoces, USA TODAY
PITTSBURGH — Center Maurkice Pouncey, a Pro Bowler in his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, awaits his NFL playoff debut. That's a step up, but he is no stranger to high stakes.
In the 2008 college season, snapping for superstar quarterback Tim Tebow at Florida, Pouncey helped the Gators win the BCS national title.
At Lakeland (Fla.) High School, Pouncey's teams won three consecutive 5A state titles. His 2005 team finished No. 1 in USA TODAY'S Super 25.
"It's crazy, man, I think on every level I've won a championship. Hopefully it will be on this level, too," the 6-4, 304-pounder said on Wednesday before practice.
How about pee wee ball?
"We won the (local) Super Bowl… I think we were on the Packers," said Pouncey.
Saturday's test will be against the Baltimore Ravens.
"I'm excited,," said Pouncey. "I just want to go in there level headed and play the game that we've always been playing."
When the Steelers selected Pouncey in the first round of the draft (18th overall), they talked a lot about him being a quick learner.
During a pre-draft meeting with Pouncey, Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler drew up blocking schemes on a blackboard.
"Coach (Mike) Tomlin and I sat in the back and watched, and we were very impressed at the way he could recall what he was taught and give it back to coach Kugler almost flawlessly," Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert said after Pittsburgh's pick.
Teams praise every first-rounder on draft day. Colbert's confidence in Pouncey was reinforced when he quickly became a starter in the preseason..
His arrival was timely for Pittsburgh, which lost starting tackle Willie Colon to an offseason Achilles tendon injury and then lost starting tackle Max Starks in November to a neck injury.
Starks, who also played at the University of Florida, said he's confident Pouncey will be able to rise to the challenge of the playoffs.
"I've explained to him a little bit about how the playoffs are different from the regular season and how you have to pick your game up that much more," said Starks. "I think he's willing and able to take that challenge."
There is a legacy at the center position in Pittsburgh. It includes the late Mike Webster, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Dermontti Dawson, a finalist this year for the Hall.
Pouncey is well aware of the history.
"Most definitely. It's pretty much ingrained in my head," he said. "Me and Dermontti text every now and then to see how each other's doing."
Webster was a nine-time Pro Bowler in the '70s and '80s. Dawson made seven Pro Bowls in the '90s. Neither started at a rookie. Pouncey is a rookie Pro Bowler.
In opting to enter this year's draft, Pouncey left Florida with a year of college eligibility remaining. He also parted with his twin brother, Mike, who had played alongside him his entire career. Mike stayed at Florida this season, moved from guard to center and enters the draft this year.
Might there be another Pouncey in Pittsburgh?
"Man, that would be a dream come true," said Pouncey. "But sometimes (if) you talk about it too much it really will never happen."
For now, Pouncey is focused on the Ravens. Rather than playing in the Pro Bowl, he'd rather to be preparing for his first Super Bowl.
"The Pro Bowl, that's exciting. It really is. But we have bigger goals," he said. "If we get this game right here and then move on to the next one and the next one, the Big Show, that would be a dream come true.
"I'd give everything I've probably ever accomplished for that."