Pouncey's progress report

Defensive linemen, the Steelers' O-line coach, and the man himself say first-round draft pick Maurkice Pouncey is progressing at just the right pace. Pouncey was the center of attention Wednesday after moving over from right guard.

PITTSBURGH -- Except for 7-on-7 snapping duty, Justin Hartwig has missed all of the spring drills, and on Wednesday his replacement, Doug Legursky, missed practice to let his sore lower back heal.

So with both centers out, last year's third-round pick, guard Kraig Urbik, stepped into the center spot with the first unit. But the news of the day was the utilization of rookie first-rounder Maurkice Pouncey at center with the second and third units.

Well, maybe it wasn't so much "news of the day" as it simply brought out the "questions of the day." Seemingly everyone in the Pittsburgh media wanted an update on Pouncey's progress, so here are the necessary transcripts:

Maurkice Pouncey, center, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: Were you comfortable enough at RG to shift over to center?

A: Most definitely. Center's about making all the calls. You feel more comfortable when you're making all the line calls.

Q: Was it tiring to work on the second and third units?

A: No, it's fine. I need to get in better shape anyway.

Q: How's your understanding of the playbook?

A: It's going good. It's a lot different from college but I'll get used to it.

Q: How different from college?

A: We had an option offense and this is more of a power team.

Sean Kugler, line coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: Is Pouncey improving?

A: Yeah, he's a worker and he's a kid who's very conscientious. The mistakes that he makes, he always tries to come back and improve upon. He's a kid that's up there in the film room. He's thirsty for knowledge and trying to get better. It's going to be day to day and I think he's going to improve every day. That's all we're asking of him right now.

Q: Did he learn to move his feet better on the one play today?

A: He'll learn a lesson every day, but the main thing is if he makes a mistake that he doesn't make it a second time. Again, he's got that mentality, and I think he's the type of kid that when he makes a mistake he's the first one who wants to correct it.

Q: What's the thinking behind a coach giving a rookie two positions to play?

A: Nowadays, most teams dress seven linemen on game day. So if you're not in the starting five, and you're one of the backups, you've got to be able to play two positions. Last year in Buffalo we had three games where we ended with five linemen. So if you've got five linemen out there, you'd better have a guy who can play guard and tackle and a guy who can play guard and center. That's the mentality I'm after.

Q: You're not worried about him being overwhelmed?

A: There will be, initially, but eventually, in the long run, it helps him because if I'm working the guard reps it helps me understand the tackle position, and if I'm working center reps it helps me understand the guard position. So at first I think they get a little overloaded, but in the long term they look back on it and say, ‘I'm glad I did that.'

Q: What do you think of his play?

A: He's everything we thought. He's a competitive kid. He's a hard worker. He's a smart kid and I think he's going to get better every day because that's his make-up.

Q: When Maurkice and Trai Essex stand next to each other, it's clear that Trai's much wider. Does Maurkice need to gain more weight?

A: Guys can be functional at all different shapes and sizes. He has a different make-up than Trai, but they both bring different qualities that are special. Maurkice is a solid kid. He can function at guard or center at the weight he's at.

In talking with some of the defensive linemen, it became clear that Pouncey is well-regarded for his techniques, his pad level, and his quickness, but that "he's thinking a little too much" and "he's a work in progress." So there wasn't any glowing praise, but that's to be expected in spring football. On the other side, if he was a bust, or even a slight disappointment, one of the D-linemen would've said so.


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