Mourning Period Officially Over

The mantra all off-season was about the health of the line. That went south, and now it's about the Steelers' resolve, explains Mike Prisuta.

As initially suspected, losing Maurkice Pouncey turned out to be such a traumatic blow to the psyche of the Steelers' offensive line that even Mike Tomlin had to acknowledge it as such.

"Not only in terms of what he's capable of, but emotionally, the manner in which it happened," Tomlin allowed on Tuesday.

Think about that for a minute.

Tomlin is usually above succumbing to such distractions.

He's so manically committed to his trademark the-standard-is-the-standard mantra amid such circumstances that the Steelers had those very words bolted onto the wall just outside the locker room at Heinz Field, lest anyone forget.

Tomlin admittedly isn't a sentimental or emotional guy, particularly when it comes to his players.

Ask Mike Adams.

But this was different.

It had to be, didn't it?

Because if the offensive line didn't have the air sucked from its collective gut the moment Pouncey went down and stayed down on Sunday, if the sudden, staggering loss of the unquestioned leader of the offensive linemen didn't have an almost paralyzing effect on those who were left up front … it's going to be a long, painful season.

Guard Ramon Foster wouldn't go that far on Wednesday ("we just played bad").

But when he spoke of Pouncey, Foster did so in reverent tones and references.

"To lose a guy like that is the equivalent of losing Ben (Roethlisberger)," Foster insisted.

No argument here.

The Steelers weren't going to be able to overcome such a loss eight snaps into a game and a season. What happened against Tennessee was the result of their inability to do so.

But as understandable as that was given the circumstances, the mourning period is now over.

And the offensive line has no choice but to get over it, get it together and play to a level that at the very least allows the offense to function on Monday night against the Bengals, not matter who ends up at center in Pouncey's absence.

With more than a full week to prepare this time, the Steelers must improvise, adapt and overcome.

They must do so first and foremost against a formidable front four, one that's eight players deep.

And they must do so on the road.

The magnitude of all of that hasn't been lost on guard David DeCastro.

"Run the ball better," DeCastro declared regarding the Steelers' Week Two objectives. "We gotta block better first of all. We gotta give (offensive coordinator Todd) Haley the confidence to call run plays.

"That's our job."

In other words, life without the All-Pro center has officially commenced.

DeCastro offered up a symbolic turning of that page on Wednesday when he spoke of the play that ended Pouncey's season and threatened the Steelers' season through the benefit of video-review hindsight.

Understandably distraught over the role he had played in Pouncey's misfortune in the immediate aftermath, DeCastro was much more resolute than he was remorseful when the subject was revisited.

"We gotta move on," DeCastro stressed. "We can't sit here feeling sorry for ourselves.

"Stuff happens in football."

When it happened last season and Pouncey came up unavailable for the Steelers' annual trip to Cincinnati, they were still able to rush for 167 yards, gain 431 total net yards and, most significantly, win the game.

So they at least know it can be done.

"Our only option is resolve," DeCastro continued. "Come together, be stronger, all pitch in and carry the load that Pouncey had. We gotta work together now."

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