(Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images)
For eleven seasons, Maurice Pouncey lined up at the helm of the Pittsburgh offensive line, dominating opposing defensive tackles and protecting his long-time friend Ben Roethlisberger. Pouncey performed at an elite level throughout his entire career, which in the end enabled him to be honored with 9 Pro Bowl appearances, 3 NFL All-Pro honors, and countless more accolades. On Friday morning, Maurkice announced his retirement from the NFL alongside his brother, Mike. The two brothers who lined up side by side in college will now move into retirement as well, bookmarking two excellent careers. Maurkice’s journey to and through the NFL was a spectacular one, riddled with accolades and highlights that will be remembered forever. To honor such an outstanding player and leader, below is a timeline of Maurkice Pouncey’s career, one that may just end in Canton.
University of Florida – (2007-2009)
For three years, Maurkice Pouncey played football in Gainesville for an extremely talented Gators team. In 2007. Pouncey played the majority of his freshman season at right guard, starting in 11 out 13 games for HC Urban Meyer’s team. The following year, Pouncey would continue finding success as he became Florida’s starting center in the preseason. In what was a phenomenal year punctuated with a National Championship for the Gators, Pouncey started every game at center and played at an extremely high level. His best collegiate year certainly came at the right time though, as his junior year proved to be a historic one. While the undefeated Gators would eventually fall short to No. 2 Alabama in the SEC Championship, Maurkice Pouncey would bring home the Rimington Award, recognizing him as the best center in college football. After the conclusion of his 3rd year at Florida, Maurkice would officially begin his illustrious professional career, declaring for the NFL Draft.
2010 NFL Draft
On April 23rd, 2010, the Pittsburgh Steelers would use the 18th overall pick to select Maurkice Pouncey, making him the first center to come off the board. The pick would obviously prove to be a good one, as the Steelers found the anchor to their offensive line for over a decade. Pouncey would go on to start every game he played in for the Pittsburgh Steelers, making 134 appearances.
Pouncey wasted no time making an impact early on in his time playing professionally, making the Pro Bowl in each of his first 3 seasons. He held down the center of the line in a postseason run in 2010 that would end up in a Super Bowl appearance, but unfortunately, an injury in the AFC Championship would hold him out from making an appearance in the Super Bowl. In the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Pouncey would perform at an elite level. His play led to receiving back-to-back 1st team All-Pro honors. Unfortunately for the Steelers and Pouncey, his 2013 season would be cut short due to a season-ending knee injury in the first week of the season.
Pouncey’s Pay Days
Following the 2013 season, the Steelers and Pouncey agreed to a 5-year extension worth over $44,000,000. This contract would tie Pouncey to the Steelers through the 2018 season, cementing the core of the offensive line for the better part of the decade. During this time, Pouncey continued to dominate the NFL and opposing defenses. Pittsburgh did not waste much time after the conclusion of the 2018 season to further extend Pouncey’s tenure, as they inked him to another contract. This time around it was a 3-year deal worth $33,000,000. All of the guarantees and bonuses amounted to a total of nearly $75,000,000.
In 2014, Pouncey would return from his 2013 injury in a major way, securing his 3rd 1st Team All-Pro honors as well as yet another Pro Bowl appearance. While he started every game that season, such luck would not carry over to 2015 when Pouncey suffered an ankle injury in the preseason. Another surgery would require him to miss the entire season for a second time. As we had already seen from Pouncey though, these surgeries did not slow him down one bit as he rebounded with Pro Bowl appearances in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Such consistency is hard to find at the professional level, and Pouncey was the model for it. Pouncey was honored with a 2nd team All-Pro selection in 2018 as he showed no signs of slowing.
Brawl in Cleveland
On one of the final plays in a Week 11 loss to Cleveland, mayhem arose when Browns DE Myles Garrett and Steelers QB Mason Rudolph got tangled up well after the play. Things continued to escalate as the two were yelling back and forth, but the situation went awry when Garrett took a swing at a helmetless Rudolph with his own helmet. It was then that a complete brawl unfolded, leading to many fines as well as suspensions. One of the biggest takeaways from the melee was Maurkice Pouncey’s defense of QB Mason Rudolph. Almost immediately after the helmet connected with Rudolph’s head, Pouncey came rushing in and took Garrett down. More punching and kicking ensued, leading to a 2-game suspension for the Steelers’ center. We had already heard stories about how Maurkice was a loyal friend and teammate, but this display cemented that legacy. Pouncey was praised by teammates, former and current, for the entire rest of the season for his actions. Many believed the suspension was unwarranted because he was simply defending his teammate, something the NFL may have partially agreed with as they cut down his original 3-game suspension by a game. That Thursday night game in Cleveland is one that will not be soon forgotten, but aside from the helmet swing itself, Pouncey’s defense of his quarterback was one of the lasting images that will resonate with Steelers fans forever.
Following a 48-37 playoff loss to the same Cleveland Browns a year later, Pouncey and his brother would call it a career after mauling defensive lines for over a decade. Pouncey’s career cannot be summarized in one image, but the still shot of himself and QB Ben Roethlisberger tearing up on the sidelines after the loss is one that encapsulates not only their passion for the game but their friendship as well. Pouncey will go down as one of the greats in Steelers’ history, etching his name next to the already legendary list of all-time Steeler centers.
Alongside the names of Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson, Pouncey will surely have his place in the Steelers Hall of Honor. The accolades may not end there though. Pouncey’s 3 1st team All-Pro and 2 2nd team All-Pro appearances, paired with his 9 Pro Bowl appearances make his resume one that may very well end up in Canton. Pair those accolades with his selection to the NFL’s 2010 All-Decade Team and it may be hard to keep him out of the Hall of Fame. In a career that had so many ups and so few downs, Maurkice Pouncey will now move into life sans football alongside his brother Mike. For Maurkice, life after football may be different. But if we learned one thing throughout his career, it is that he will thrive. Pouncey withstood so much adversity in his career, and never once did he waver.