Steelers' Maurkice Pouncey succeeds in return home


Tampa Bay Buccaneers go head to head with the Pittsburgh Steelers with Maurkice Pouncey as center at Raymond James Stadium Sunday Sept. 26, 2010 in Tampa, Fla.

Cindy Skop / The Lakeland Ledger
Published: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 3:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 3:20 p.m.

TAMPA — For now, Maurkice Pouncey's focus is simply on each day and each week.

Facts

Maurkice likes Mike

Pittsburgh rookie center Maurkice Pouncey from Lakeland said he knows what his twin brother Mike, the starting center for the University of Florida, is going through in his move from guard to center.

Mike has struggled with his shotgun snaps, but Maurkice said his brother will get that straightened out.

“When I first moved over, I had the same thing. I had the horrible snaps, snaps everywhere,” said Maurkice, who moved from guard to center after his freshman year. “He (Mike) is such a high profile player, everyone's going to notice it. Even the commentator said it last night that he's still one of the best linemen in college football. The snaps will get better. They've been getting better all along.”

Asked if he's tried to help his brother out, Maurkice said, “Nah, I've always thought my brother was a better player than me. ... Don't tell him that, though.”

The Pittsburgh Steelers' rookie center from Lakeland says the NFL “is another level” and he's working hard every day to adjust.

Veteran Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward says he will, and that he sees great things ahead for Pouncey in an organization known for great centers.

“When Maurkice gets three or four years into the league and finally figures this whole thing out, look for a lot of Pro Bowls,” Ward said after the Steelers' 38-13 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

In the win, Pouncey started and anchored a Steeler offensive line that did not allow a sack on quarterback Charlie Batch and helped Pittsburgh run for 201 yards.

It was a special moment for the former Florida Gator, playing in front of family and friends who made the trip over from Lakeland.

“It felt amazing. I'm 20 minutes from Tampa, and pretty much all of Lakeland came up here to support me,” he said.

His twin brother Mike, the starting center at Florida, couldn't make the trip down because the Gators had practice.

Maurkice said he purchased 12 tickets for the game, but added, “a lot of people from Lakeland bought their own tickets.”

Pouncey was Pittsburgh's first-round selection, the No. 18 overall pick. He wasn't sure how quickly he'd play, but he was in the starting lineup for the Steelers' opener and each week continues to be a learning experience, he said.

“They told me when I first started it was going to be a slow process,” Pouncey said, “but (earning a starting spot) happened and I'm happy it happened.

“I'm feeling pretty good, but every week, it's something new,” he said. “You've got to learn something new every week. It's not like you have the same points every week.”

It's much different than it was in college, he said.

“It's another level. In college, if we were going right, I'm pointing right. Up here, it might be you've got a backside point.”

What's important, Ward noted, is that Pouncey is picking things up.

“He's had a lot of help from all of the veterans. Right now, he's learning on the run.”

Ward has been one of the veterans who has helped Pouncey.

“I remember calling him after he got drafted. I called him on his cell phone and said, ‘You're a Pittsburgh Steeler now. Welcome in.' ”

From 1964 to 2006, the Steelers had only four starting centers – Ray Mansfield (1964-75), Mike Webster (1976-88), Dermontti Dawson (1989-2000) and Jeff Hartings (2001-06).

“In Pittsburgh, we're known for our centers,” Ward said. “He (Pouncey) is going to be right there following in the footsteps of those guys. He's going to be a great one.

“When the game slows down and he starts seeing the defense and making the calls, he's going to have Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl after Pro Bowl.

“I love everything about the kid – the tenacity, he doesn't quit. Unfortunately, I hate him because he's a Gator,” said Ward, a Georgia alum, “but I love everything about him.”

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