If there is one thing (in fact there are many) that Steelers Nation can smile about with the regular season fast approaching, it is the rapid development of first round pick Maurkice Pouncey.
The Steelers had high hopes when they drafted him.
No team in the history of the NFL can match the Steelers distinguished the lineage at center.
For over 30 years Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster, and Dermontti Dawson established the NFL's Gold Standard for play at center. When they weren’t making Hall of Fame caliber performances, Mansfield, Webster and Dawson were merely excelling at the All-Pro Level.
Perhaps the Steelers slid just a notch with Jeff Hartings, but Hartings distinguished himself over seven seasons, earning a couple of Pro Bowls in the process.
Sean Mahan and Justin Hartwig have carried on since, and suffice to say, they have not met the Steelers standard.
Pouncey was supposed to do a one-year apprenticeship at guard and then graduate to center.
But the Steelers are set to pronounce Pouncey as qualified for early graduation. He has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Mike Tomlin has said as much. Post-Gazette beat writer Ed Bouchette thinks Pouncey can be the best center in the league.
The Steelers have been rotating Pouncey and Hartwig with the rest of the first unit, but everything indicates that it is only a matter of time before Pouncey is named the starting center.
Pouncey can only provide a shot in the arm to a line much in need of help.
Sepulveda Kickoff Experiment Apparently Over…
The warm glow generated by Pouncey’s rapid assent is perhaps dulled a little by the news, again from Ed Bouchette, that the Steelers experiment with letting punter Daniel Sepulveda kick off is ending.
Sepulveda kicked off against the Giants on Saturday night, but was not able to get his kicks appreciably deeper than Jeff Reed does.
Fair enough. But why limit the experiment to one game? This is preseason after all. It is not like Reed is going to forget how to kick off, but Sepulveda might improve with more experience.
There’s been talk that having your punter kick off can disrupt his punting rhythm…
…I’ll let experts debate that point, but I will simply note that in 1987 the Washington Redskins punter Steve Cox also handled kickoff duties (as well as kicking a few long field goals), although Joe Gibbs apparently relieved him of kickoff duty during the season. (That may have been due to the arrival of place kicker Ali Haji-Sheikh.)
A reader on PG Plus’ weekly chat sealed the argument, observing that even if their kickoffs are of the same distance, Sepulveda can tackle, which should break the tie.
The Steelers invested a fourth round pick in Sepulveda in 2007 and Sepulveda has not yielded good value. It is Mike Tomlin’s fault that they picked him so high and by the same token Tomlin should not be so quick to take away a chance for Sepulveda to redeem himself.
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