In his latest “Schein Nine” offering on NFL.com, analyst Adam Schein has attempted to define the nine most indispensable offensive players around the league.
Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey comes in at No. 3 on Schein’s list.
The Steelers’ star center suffered a season-ending injury on Pittsburgh’s eighth offensive snap of the 2013 campaign, when teammate David DeCastro accidentally barreled into his leg while attempting to block a Tennessee Titans defender. In a related story, Pittsburgh missed the playoffs. As offensive coordinator Todd Haley told my colleague Michael Silver in the aftermath of the injury, it left the Steelers “shell-shocked.” Pittsburgh, of course, dropped its first four games of the year — creating a hole the Steelers just couldn’t dig themselves out of, despite a valiant effort down the stretch.
Pouncey’s a great player, the glue of a line that was suspect a year ago. The 27th-ranked run game missed Pouncey. So did Ben Roethlisberger. The fifth-year pro is vital to Pittsburgh’s success.
It’s a pretty vanilla explanation by Schein, but it’s hard to argue with him having Pouncey on his list.
If the Steelers do indeed intend on running the outside-zone in 2014 in order to take advantage of what second-year running back Le’Veon Bell did best in college, Pouncey’s mobility certainly will play a big part in that being successful. The center is back practicing again during OTA practices and that’s probably earlier than several thought.
When Pouncey went down last year in the season-opener, Fernando Velasco was plucked off of the street to take over at center. While the Georgia product did hold his own when pressed quickly into service as the starter, he never was mistaken for Pouncey when it came to his mobility.
Velasco’s season eventually came to an end thanks to a torn Achilles’ suffered Thanksgiving night in Baltimore and at that point the Steelers had no choice but to turn to Cody Wallace. Like Velasco, Wallace was able to hold his own in the Steelers final four games and he parlayed that performance into a new three-year contract this offseason. Even so, the Steelers running game would likely suffer in 2014 if Wallace were to have start for an extended amount of games.
In reality, Schein could have probably listed about 10 other centers on his list that one would could easily deem as being indispensable to their team’s offense. With 2014 being a contract-year for Pouncey, the Steelers now have the ultimate task of deciding just how indispensable their former first-round draft pick really is.