Without a doubt, the point of discussion trending the most so far this week about the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers has been their inability to consistently run the football over the past three or four games, and what needed to be done to remedy the situation. The suggestions have been too numerous to mention, as seemingly every Black and Gold fanatic appears united over the same concern.
Every card carrying member of Steelers Nation has been raised to love hardnosed, blue collar football. Two components of those expectations are a dominating defense, coupled with a reliable rushing attack. The NFL game has continued to evolve toward a more high scoring, pass happy league over the past fifty years due to rule changes and safety concerns, but don't waste your breath trying to explain that reality to many hard headed, old fashioned Steelers fans.
The heart wants what the heart wants, and their motto is forever tattooed on their hearts. Running the ball to control the clock, and playing tough defense wins championships. This is the way! Yes, that is a Mandalorian reference for those aware of such things.
The Steelers are blessed with what I feel is a Super Bowl caliber defense, so they are good to go on that front. However, their running game doesn't appear championship caliber at the moment. Hence all the sleepless nights and troubled brows around the Steel City. Plenty of blame to go around based on the fan's response, with the offensive line receiving more than their fair share. Especially perennial Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey.
I have come to the realization over the past few years that Maurkice Pouncey is the most polarizing figure on the Steelers roster. Many fans, myself included, appreciate how the 8 time Pro Bowler has continued the Steelers unmatched legacy of Hall of Fame caliber centers over the past half century. Pouncey, five times a first or second team All Pro, will someday receive a gold jacket and have a bust reside in Canton.
However, their are plenty of fans who don't share my positive opinions of Pouncey's performances and abilities. Apparently a segment of the fanbase considers him to be the main reason the Steelers have struggled to establish a rushing attack this season, with a precious few believing he has been overrated for years. Talk about a polarizing figure. That is about as far from both ends of the spectrum that you can get.
Oftentimes the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, and all I can do is try to share my opinion. Pouncey is one of the most athletic centers to ever play the position, but he has always been more finesse than power. His ability to pull and reach the second level has always been exceptional and sets him apart from his peers. He understands his limitations, and achieves leverage by being fundamentally sound. His football IQ is often overlooked.
That being said, Pouncey has struggled for years to achieve adequate push in the running game, especially against more powerful defenders. He manipulates far more than he manhandles. He excels at turning or shielding the opponent, then disengage to search for a secondary block. This ability paired beautifully with the running style of Le’Veon Bell, not so much with the Steelers current stable of running backs. Pouncey's lack of brute force in the running game is most apparent in obvious running situations, especially short yardage.
So what is the most logical conclusion? In my opinion, Pouncey is in no way the main culprit in the Steelers struggles to run the football. Truthfully, I believe he has rebounded nicely from his disappointing season last year, where he was named to the Pro Bowl on reputation alone. He continues to be a leader on the field, in the locker room, and in the community.
Hopefully, Pouncey's play for the remainder of this season will help turn the naysayers into true believers, like myself. Because although I don't feel that he is part of the problem with the Steelers running game, I do believe he can be a big part of the solution.