Pouncey lands starting center job
August 26, 2010 01:38 AM
By: JIM WEXELL
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PITTSBURGH - Maurkice Pouncey will look back at Wednesday's practice as the official start of his reign as the Steelers' starting center, an era Steelers fans have awaited since Jeff Hartings retired following the 2006 season.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin confirmed the move in a Steelers.com text following a practice in which the first-round pick took all of the first-team practice reps for the first time.
The move became obvious after two preseason games in which Pouncey not only played mistake-free ball, but showed the vast potential the Steelers saw in him at the University of Florida.
Even nose tackle Casey Hampton raved about the rookie's play throughout the first month of practice.
"He's real good," Hampton said. "He's got what it takes. He's quick, strong. I think he'll be a real good player."
That should be considered a hearty endorsement, since Hampton doesn't hide from the truth. The best he could say about Sean Mahan one year was that "he can hold a little bit."
Hampton believes Pouncey can be the best he's seen at the position throughout his 10 years with the team.
"He's up there," Hampton said. "Athletically, and with the skill set he has, he's up there with Hartings - ain't no question about it. I mean, ain't no question."
However, the big question about Pouncey, who turned 21 less than a month ago, is his understanding of the position and his ability to make the line calls and adjustments.
Hampton agreed, but stated what fans have noticed right away.
"He's big and so athletic he can make up for a lot of stuff you can do," Hampton said. "You can do stuff, but he recovers. It's hard to beat him."
Pouncey's neighbor on the offensive line, right guard Trai Essex, hasn't seen Pouncey make many mistakes.
"There are still things here and there, but he has it for the most part," said Essex.
After the preseason opener, in which Tomlin admitted to being surprised at how well Pouncey played, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talked about the possibility of a rookie playing center on opening day.
"It depends on how good your guards are," Roethlisberger said. "They'd have to help a lot. It's a complex thing you ask a center to do."
Essex, though, said it hasn't been much of a chore for him.
"Yeah, we'll have to help him," Essex said, "But, I mean, I help him, I help Flozell (Adams).
"I don't go in saying I'm going to help him, but if he makes a mistake I'll help him out. And when he does make a mistake, he understands why right away. He rarely makes the same mistake twice. That's what the coaches like."
Pouncey, though, thinks he knows exactly what the coaches like.
"I've been playing hard," he said. "I've had some mistakes, but I'm still playing hard football."
So, let the day begin.