Maurkice Pouncey returned to the field yesterday during OTA’s for the first time since he tore is ACL in the season opener last season. According to all witnesses yesterday, Pouncey has made a full recovery. This is fantastic news for the Steelers. It could be seen as the biggest off-season addition to the roster. Heading into his fifth year, Pouncey has been named to the All-Pro team three times. He is arguably the best center in the NFL.
Last September, the Pouncey injury was a huge reason the Steelers started 0-4. The offensive line struggled early in the year to say the least. In the first four games the Steelers leading rusher averaged a mere 38 yards per game. The Steelers signed Fernando Velasco, who played very well filling in for Pouncey in 11 starts, but the Steelers finished the season tied for 27th in rushing. Pouncey was not the only injured offensive lineman, as only Marcus Gilbert started all 16 games.
In the three full seasons that Pouncey has played in, the Steelers are 33-14 (including playoff games). With Pouncey back at full strength, this could be the first time in recent memory that the Steelers will have a solid starting offensive line. That is assuming the can avoid the injury bug that has plagued them over the past four seasons, in which they have started over 30 different line combinations. Entering this season the Steelers are hopeful that their young lineman can finally reach their potential, Ramon Foster is the oldest starter at only 28 years old. The Steelers are set at the guard position with David DeCastro and Foster. At tackle they also have some very good talent with Gilbert, Kelvin Beachum, and Mike Adams could fill-in at either tackle spot if needed. The Steelers also brought in former Tennessee Titans Head Coach and NFL Hall of Famer, Mike Munchak to be the offensive line coach. You would have to hope a guy with that type of resume will be able to get the most out of the Steelers young lineman.
If Pouncey and the rest of the line can stay healthy, the Steelers offense has the potential to be ranked in the top ten by the end of the year. With a solid line it could be fun to watch Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, and Dri Archer run the ball. It might remind of us of 2005 with Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis in the backfield when Alan Faneca and company were on the line. It would also be nice to see the now 32-year-old Big Ben to stay on his feet more often in the future. I know he is a big guy and can take more hits than other smaller QBs but if he continues to take a beating year in and year out, we might not have a ton of years left with Big Ben leading the offense. Hopefully the Steelers can get through OTA’s and Training Camp with no significant injuries to any player, but especially the offensive line because if any of them go down the potential success of the Steelers offense could go down with it.
What do you think Steelers Nation? Will the offensive line have the biggest impact on the Steelers season?