Yesterday we covered some examples of the fill-in job which Cody Wallace was able to perform throughout the 2015-2016 NFL season. His play ws not stellar, but it was solid enough for the Steelers to be able to operate an offense without Maurkice Pouncey for the entire season and still run at a high efficiency. This has led some to believe that maybe the Steelers have too much value in Pouncey as a player with his big contract and could trade him for a star player at another position in the hopes that Wallace would continue to develop.
This is the second part to counter that narrative.
Today we will review some key elements to Pouncey's game which Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, can strategize around specifically because of Pouncey's talents and abilities. When we look at Pouncey's skills, he not only shows a larger range for where he can attack his blocking assignment, but he also shows he can control opponents both from the line of scrimmage and once he pulls to a different area of the field.
Downfield blocking vs. Tennessee
Watch Pouncey's initial reach step in the zone scheme from Pittsburgh's matchup with the Titans back in 2014. He positions himself perfectly and completely controls his opponent, engaging him three yards from the line of scrimmage and putting him on his back fives yards from the line. Pouncey's quickness allows him to get into better position than most centers who come off the snap, a reliability that opens up a great deal more when Pittsburgh decide to use him at the point of attack via a pulling technique.
Pouncey vs. Jacksonville
Watch here as Pouncey pulls around DeCastro and perfectly eliminates Paul Poslusny from the play. As soon as he snaps the ball his right knee is out and he is owrking his way to Poslusny in the gap which the play was designed to attack. Not only does he get there, but he also completely seals Poslusny from being able to land a hand on Bell as he gains 29 yards on the play. When Wallace is in the game, the Steelers would normally try to do this more so with DeCastro attacking the left side. But when Pouncey is in the game, defenses have to account for the potential of either player's ability to turn up into a gap and create the hole for a big run. The more headaches Pittsburgh can give opponents, the better.
Working in space vs. New York Jets
This is just how versatile Pittsburgh's offense can be when Pouncey is in the game. He is the lone blocker in front of Bell when the offense uses a screen to Ben Roethlisberger's left, but he extends himself past Ramon Foster, Kelvin Beachum and Heath Miller's position to get his assignment, square up and give Bell the sideline so he can convert the first down. This is not something any ordinary center can be called upon to do, just as the other highlights we have shown are not further examples of Pouncey being able to perfrom such tasks consistently with effectiveness.
Bottom line when talking about potentially dumping Pouncey in favor of Wallace as a starter:
While trade talk is often entertaining from a fan's standpoint, it often overlooks the importance of a player in their role for a team. This is what happens when anyone thinks that Pittsburgh will be just fine without Pouncey in the future. Sure, the offense has a lot of talent at other positions, but Pouncey is a guaranteed elite player and opens up of the offense even more than it already has shown when it fires on all cylinders.
Remember that when Pouncey returns, Pittsburgh will have a chance to open up their playbook to more plays and rely on him, as well as DeCastro to be anchors for different run schemes and when attacking gaps in a defense. Wallace does not bring the sense of reliability which Pouncey does at the position, and the comparison is not even close.
This is not to disparage Wallace, but it would be like someone suggesting that because the Steelers were able to rely on DeAngelo Williams, Franklin Toussaint and Jordan Todman in a season where Le'Veon Bell was oft injured, that we should look to trade away Bell. The other players can perform their duties at a level that makes plays and viable options as weapons in the offense, but none of them show the capability of an all pro player like Bell. We actually had that exact discussion a few weeks ago when I wrote a response to the various sports media members who thought the Steelers should trade away Bell or not re-sign him after next season.
No. None of this should happen, nor do I think it will so long as Kevin Colbert is the general manager. The Steelers are going to rock out with two all-pro players that each provide a strong testament as the best players at their positions across the NFL. Trading away such players so that the team can rely on lesser talented but assured backups to be regular starters could set the team back years. The only way either of these players should ever be moved at this stage in their careers is if someone walks in with a Herschel Walker type of a trade, offering somewhere around three of a team's first and second round picks and five players at various positions.
Until that offer comes in on the table, Pittsburgh should gear up for a Super Bowl run with an offense that has four all pro players in Le'Veon Bell, Maurkice Pouncey, Antonio Brown, and David DeCastro. Oh, and some guy named Ben Roethlisberger.