Steelers’ Maurkice Pouncey: Center for the ‘All-Average Team’?

Maurkice Pouncey with Ben Roethlisberger and Alejandro Villanueva

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a touchdown with Alejandro Villanueva and Maurkice Pouncey, #53.

Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey has earned plenty of accolades since being the team’s first-round draft pick in 2010. As noted on the Steelers’ web site, he is “the first center in NFL history to be selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons, and he has earned seven overall Pro Bowl selections (2010-12, 2014 and 2016-18).”

Moreover, Pouncey has established a very strong bond with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who, in October 2016, said: “I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else. I feel so blessed to have him in my life, not just as a football player, but as a friend.”

The feeling is mutual. “He’s my brother,” Pouncey said of Roethlisberger. “When he walks away from football, I’m walking away too.”

But at Pro Football Focus, they have another word for describing Pouncey, and that word is: “average.”


Pro Football Focus’ ‘All-Average Team’

During a recent PFF NFL podcast, co-hosts Steve Palazzolo and Sam Monson discussed which NFL players would be on an “all-average team.”

Deep inside the podcast, the names of some decidedly mid-tier players came up—including a few that Steelers’ fans might expect to hear.

For example, Palazzolo and Monson have former Cincinnati Bengals starter Andy Dalton—now a backup with the Dallas Cowboys—as the quarterback on their All-Average Team, describing him as “the epitome of average,” with his expected performance fluctuating higher or lower based on the players around him.


Maurkice Pouncey: The Quintessential ‘Average’ Center

But other names bandied about during the discussion might come as a bit of a surprise. Most notably, here’s what the hosts had to say about Maurkice Pouncey.

“When you watch Maurkice Pouncey, he doesn’t kill people—he doesn’t crush people in the run game—he makes reasonable blocks, he moves fairly well, and he gets beaten in pass protection in the middle class of centers when it comes to pass protection and giving up pressures in a given year. Maurkice Pouncey might be the all-average center despite his Hall of Fame path when it comes to perception [emphasis added].”

Palazzolo and Monson go on to note how it will be “an injustice” when Pouncey gets elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, saying: “He was average for ten years and we’re going to throw him in the Hall of Fame but we’re going to do it because he had ten Pro Bowls because nobody knew any better.” They cite the Steelers’ history at the center position—and the lineage from Mike Webster to Dermontti Dawson to Maurkice Pouncey—as being a big factor in how Pouncey is perceived.

Never mind how the next Steelers’ center might be perceived. “They have to draft him high, they have to say he’s really good and they have to start him day one and then he’s in the Hall of Fame,” Monson quips.


Alejandro Villanueva and Stefen Wisniewski

For what it’s worth, two other Pittsburgh offensive linemen get mentioned in the course of Palazzolo and Monson discussing their ‘All-Average Team.’

One is Steelers’ left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who the hosts describe as having “settled into mediocrity,” before adding: “There was a year when he was a lot better than that but that seems to have been more the high point of his career than anything else… He has settled into that average area—reasonable player, solid starter—but at some point you’re going to be a problem.”

Then, Stefen Wisniewski’s name came up during the discussion of offensive guards. The Steelers signed Wisniewski in free agency earlier in the offseason as a potential replacement for now retired left guard Ramon Foster. Wisniewski is described as “probably better than average, it’s just that he seems that way because he never gets a starting job anywhere.”

It should be noted, perhaps, that the podcast hosts regard getting average offensive line play as not exactly a bad thing, as long as you’re not overpaying for it.

When it comes to Villanueva and Wisniewski, the Steelers are not overpaying, as Villanueva is in the last year of a four-year $24 million contract he signed in 2017, eminently reasonable money for a starting left tackle. Meanwhile, Wisniewski’s contract is reportedly in the range of $3 million total over the course of two years.

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