By Lenn Robbins
Perhaps the only time you paid a lot of attention, heck any attention, to Maurkice Pouncey, unless you’re a Steelers fan, of course, was November 15, 2019.
That’s when you saw the Pittsburgh center pounce on Myles Garrett, who had ripped off the helmet of Mason Rudolph and cracked the backup quarterback over the head. Pouncey went after Garrett with a vengeance, punching and kicking the Cleveland defensive end.
It’s no wonder Pouncey has the word, “loyalty,” tattooed under his right ear. Nor would it come as a shock if a picture of Pouncey was in the dictionary next to the word, “teammate.”
“I hate to say he’s the greatest teammate and competitor I’ve ever been around, but at the end of the day that’s what it is – he’s the greatest teammate and competitor I’ve been around,” Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Gerry Dulac. “And that’s no slight to anybody else.”
Pouncey, along with his twin brother, Mike, announced their retirements from the NFL on Friday after 11 seasons. The announcement was made by Ramon Foster, a former teammate and friend. Loyalty.
“We began this journey at 6 years old and now at 31 we will close this chapter of our lives as I announce my retirement from the @nfl and walk away from the game,” Mike Pouncey said in a statement.
In a poetic bit of serendipity, the news, of course, was overshadowed. That’s the life of offensive linemen. They are the heart and spine of a team’s offense but almost never the mouth.
The Pouncey’s retirement was pushed aside when J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans announced that they had parted ways, a stunning decision considering Watt’s standing as the best and most popular player in franchise history. It’s hard to think of an NFL team that wouldn’t love to add Watt, who likely will only consider contenders.
And it’s hard to think of any NFL team that wouldn’t have loved to have a Pouncey. Mike spent 10 seasons with the Dolphins and Chargers. His career ended with him on injured reserve.
Maurkice played all 11 seasons in Pittsburgh. There might be some debate over who is the greatest Steelers center of all time – the late Hall of Famer, Mike Webster, or the future Hall of Famer, Maurkice Pouncey.
Webster literally gave his life to the NFL, starting 150 straight games and playing in 245 from the mid-70s through the mid-80s. There was no such concept as concussion protocol when Webster played. He was the first retired NFL player to be diagnosed with CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and died and the age of 50.
The Pounceys walk away from the game at the ripe young age of 31. The hope is that both will enjoy a long, healthy life, free from the torment of dementia and all the other physical and mental disabilities that can be traced back to a life literally knocking heads with opposing players.
“I’ll always love the game of football & always will be the ultimate competitor in life @nfl @steelers ! I’m jus not in love with the sacrifice football carries on my life, my beautiful daughters Jayda, Marley & my family!” Maurkice Pouncey said in a statement released by Foster.
Maurkice was fined $35,096 and suspended two games for defending his teammate. He was fine with that. Players like Maurkice Pouncey, and my hope is that there are more of them in professional sports than we know, don’t worry about fines or suspensions when it comes to having a teammate’s back. That’s called loyalty.
“Probably one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Rudolph said. “A guy that you want on your team. He has your back. He’s got everybody’s back on this team.”
Here’s to one of the NFL’s best teammates.