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Old 11-09-2010, 06:40 AM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Cook: Return of Steelers' Pouncey a big relief

Cook: Return of Steelers' Pouncey a big relief
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10313/1101888-87.stm

CINCINNATI -- It's hard to say what was the most frightening sight in the Steelers' game Monday night at Paul Brown Stadium. Was it center Maurkice Pouncey clutching his right shin in pain early in the second quarter as frantic quarterback Ben Roethlisberger waved to the sideline for medical help? Was it just about all of the Steelers' players coming up to Pouncey as he limped off the field to pat him on the back or helmet and wish him well, an amazing tribute to a rookie who hadn't missed a play all season. Or was it Pouncey heading into the locker room on a golf cart for X-rays and treatment, the rest of his season -- and perhaps the team's -- in apparent jeopardy?

There's no question about the best sight in the Steelers' 27-21 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals.

OK, aside from seeing Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer's fourth-down pass for wide receiver Jordan Shipley broken up at the Steelers' 2 by cornerback Ike Taylor and linebacker James Harrison with 34 seconds remaining.

It was Pouncey running back onto the field with the offense late in the first half, just in time to make his usual sizable contribution to a scoring drive, this one ending with a Jeff Reed field goal from 53 yards for a 20-7 halftime lead. Pouncey finished the game, meaning the Steelers were able to hit the NFL season's halfway point feeling pretty good about themselves and their 6-2 record.

A major injury to Pouncey would have been a really rotten deal. Already, he has proved he's the Steelers' best offensive lineman.

"I took a shot [of painkiller] and it felt pretty good after that," Pouncey said. "Hopefully, it will feel OK tomorrow ...

"I missed a couple of plays, but I wasn't going to miss this game. My guys are depending on me. I feel like I run the show. I make all of the [blocking] calls. I couldn't let 'em down."

Pouncey was hurt on what would have been remembered as the Steelers' worst five-play sequence of the season if they had lost him or the game. On first down, left guard Chris Kemoeatu went down with a right knee injury and did not return, his status for the home game Sunday night against the New England Patriots questionable at best. On third down, Pouncey was hurt. "He was kind of freaking out," offensive tackle Max Starks said. "We had to calm him down." On the fifth play of the drive, wide receiver Hines Ward lost a fumble at the Steelers' 39, putting the Bengals in position to score their only touchdown of the first three quarters.

The injuries to Kemoeatu and Pouncey forced the Steelers to do some major reshuffling on the offensive line. Doug Legursky, who played two plays at guard when Kemoeatu was hurt, moved to center with Jonathan Scott taking over at left guard. Late in the second quarter and most of the second half, Scott played left tackle for Starks, who was out with a neck injury and also is questionable for the Patriots game. Right guard Trai Essex and right tackle Flozell Adams were the only linemen who played every play.

"We were ready to put [tight end] Matt Spaeth in at right tackle," Ward said, grinning.

The big fellas did a remarkable job. That's why they call it a team, you know?

The linemen were especially strong late in the game after the Steelers turned a 27-7 blowout into a 27-21 thriller by giving up two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Running back Rashard Mendenhall had consecutive carries of 8, 3, 9, 18, 0, 4 and 1 yards as the offense ran off nearly five minutes of clock. Reed -- who has been anything but consistent this season -- missed a 46-yard field goal attempt, wasting a chance to clinch the game.

The Steelers' defense made one final big stand to secure the win.

But if you ask me, the offensive linemen won the game. It was nice to see them have this kind of game. There are more maligned sports figures in this town. Pirates owner Bob Nutting heads the list. Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is on it. So is Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

But the Steelers' linemen routinely take significant and often unwarranted abuse for their alleged shortcomings. When the team wins, it's despite them. When it loses, it's because of them. That's a tough way to go through your professional life, isn't it?

"Those guys really answered the bell," Roethlisberger said. "I'm really proud of 'em. You can't say enough about 'em."

The criticism has made the Steelers' linemen an especially close group. "We've built a really huge bond," Kemoeatu said. "We play for each other." That's why each man was sick when Kemoeatu, then Pouncey, then Starks went out. It's also why there was so much joy when Pouncey made it back into the huddle.

Suddenly, the second half of the season looked a whole lot brighter.
Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan. More articles by this author
First published on November 9, 2010 at 12:39 am


Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10313...#ixzz14sIqLEPo
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