Updated: Feb 12, 2021
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
With the recent news that Maurkice Pouncey is expected to retire soon, it's got many Steelers fans thinking whether Pouncey belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In 11 seasons with the Steelers, Pouncey has been one of the best centers in the league for the majority of those years. Pouncey is a nine-time Pro Bowler and has been named first-team All-Pro three times in his career (2011, 2012 and 2014). He's also been selected as second-team All-Pro two times (2010-2018). In addition, Pouncey was named to the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team.
Pouncey has made the Pro Bowl in nine of 11 seasons. The two times that he didn't make it was when he suffered season-ending injuries -- in 2013 where he started just one game before tearing his ACL and MCL when David DeCastro accidentally dove into his right leg when attempting a cut block on Titans' defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill, and in 2015 when he suffered a broken fibula in a preseason game when Packers' safety HaHa Clinton-Dix rolled onto the back of Pouncey's ankle. Pouncey has started in 134 of 134 career games with the Steelers.
Pouncey certainly has a case to land in Canton someday with the amount of Pro Bowls and first-team All-Pro honors he made in his career. Being named to the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team is also pretty significant. It shows that he was one of the best at his position during an era.
With offensive lineman not having stats, Pro Bowls, first-team All-Pros, All-Decade, longevity and Super Bowl titles are really all you have to judge off of. However, it's not easy to make the HOF being a center.
There have only been seven post-merger centers inducted into the HOF and two of them were Steelers -- Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson. The rest are Jim Otto, Jim Langer, Dwight Stephenson, Mick Tingelhoff and Kevin Mawae, who was the most recent center to make the HOF in 2019.
Mawae was an eight-time Pro Bowler and was first-team All-Pro seven times, and played in 241 career games and started 238. He was also named to the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.
The Pro Bowl voting process is often not reliable and in all reality, Pouncey shouldn't have been named to the Pro Bowl in the last two years. How he made the Pro Bowl this past season is quite mind-boggling. Being named first-team All-Pro three times, just 11 seasons played and not winning a Super Bowl will probably hurt Pouncey's chances of making the HOF.
Six of the seven post-merger centers in the HOF were named to more first-team All-Pro teams than Pouncey and all but Langer and Stephenson started more games than Pouncey in their careers. Langer was the only center that didn't have more first-team All-Pro nominations than Pouncey, as he tied him with three, but Langer won two Super Bowls and was a part of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins team. Stephenson only started 87 games with the Dolphins from 1980-1987 but he made five straight Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro in five consecutive years, both honors occurring from 1983-1987.
The Pro Football Reference Hall of Fame Monitor is a metric designed to estimate a player's chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame using AV, Pro Bowls, All-Pros, championships, and various stat milestones. A score of 100 is around the average for a modern-era center inductee.
Pouncey has a score of 73.78 and is ranked eighth on Pro Football Reference's Hall of Fame Monitor that has grades on 250 centers who played center starting in 1955 or later for at least 50 career games. Pouncey is behind all seven of the post-merger centers that are in the HOF. Behind Pouncey is former longtime Colts' center Jeff Saturday at No. 9. Saturday made six Pro Bowls in his career and was named first-team All-Pro twice. He started in 202 of 211 career games, however, and was a part of the Colts' 2006 Super Bowl-winning team.
At No. 10 and No. 11 on Pro Football Reference's rankings is former Broncos' center Tom Nalen and current Falcons' center Alex Mack. Nalen started in 188 of 194 career games in Denver and made five Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro three times, along with winning two Super Bowls with the Broncos (1997 and 1998). Mack, who was drafted a year earlier than Pouncey by the Browns, has started in 197 of 197 career games and is a six-time Pro Bowler and has been named first-team All-Pro three times. Mack is on the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team with Pouncey at center.
Saturday has been a Modern-Era nominee for the HOF for the last four years but has never made it as a finalist and Nalen has been a finalist for the past six years and hasn't made it as a finalist either. I think Pouncey will have the same fate as Saturday and Nalen, and will be considered as a great center, but just not HOF worthy.