Replacing A Championship Roster – Maurkice Pouncey A New Anchor
The Pittsburgh Steelers have experienced an uncommon amount of roster turnover over the last few seasons, which just so happened to coincide with consecutive years without a postseason berth.
As a result, we’re finding an unusual amount of new faces in the starting lineup compared just to last season, when the season before already introduced several new starters.
The rapid turnover in successive seasons certainly has much to do with the organization’s personnel management over the previous years. Time, as always, came out the victor as they felt the ramifications of trying to hold together a championship roster that could no longer perform like one.
Considering how different the projected starting lineup for the start of the 2014 season is from just two seasons ago, I think it would be interesting to revisit the roster from the 2010 season—the last time the Steelers competed for a championship—to see how different this new team truly is.
We will continue with the offensive line, which has seen about as much change as any position over the past few years.
2010 saw perhaps the biggest upgrade at a position from one season to the next on the Steelers in recent memory. That’s the year the team drafted center Maurkice Pouncey in the first round of the draft, immediately replacing Justin Hartwig.
Pouncey, of course, went on to three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons from 2010 to 2012, before missing virtually all of 2013 with a torn ACL. And yet Pouncey was not part of the Steelers’ championship game showing, having been knocked out with an ankle sprain in the weeks prior. Doug Legursky actually started in his place.
There’s no doubt, however, that Pouncey’s influence, even as a rookie, had its impact on the team, which helped turn a 9-7 performance into a 12-4 record with a bye week a year later.
Granted, a largely healthy season from Troy Polamalu also played its role, but Pouncey’s injection of life and talent into the offensive line reverberated through the offense and provided a breath of fresh air from Hartwig’s tenure.
So clear was the discrepancy between the two that the Steelers released Hartwig before Pouncey ever played a game, choosing to carry Legursky as the backup center instead.
The Steelers have spent the past few years since the drafting of Pouncey piecing together the offensive line of the next generation around the center position, adding David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams, and Kelvin Beachum in consecutive seasons. All told, at least four of the five will make up the starting offensive line, with Pouncey the clear leader, both on and off the field.
Pouncey is, in fact, one of the very few carryovers on the offensive side of the ball from the last time the Steelers have competed for a championship. Aside from Pouncey, only Ben Roethlisberger and Heath Miller were starters both then and now.
Antonio Brown has emerged as not just a starter, but also a key figure since then; however, his role was fairly marginal in 2010, his rookie year. Aside from that, Matt Spaeth has returned to the Steelers as the second tight end, but the offense is vastly different heading into 2014 than it was in 2010, and—finally—perhaps for the better.