Steelers' O-line will struggle without Pouncey
(This article has been updated after the news that Maurkice Pouncey is likely to miss at least half of the 2015 season.)
Maurkice Pouncey went down with an ankle injury in the Steelers’ preseason game Sunday against the Packers, after being rolled up on by Green Bay safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. According to reports, Pouncey will likely require surgery on the ankle, which would keep him off the field for some time.
What is clear is that we will be seeing at least some extended time with Cody Wallace playing center for the Steelers. And that represents a big downgrade for the Pittsburgh offensive line.
Center is one of those strange positions where a player’s true value can be best measured not by how good he is, but by how big of a drop-off there is when his replacement is forced to play. Pouncey has never been the perennial All-Pro he was initially anointed, but he is a good player. Last year was arguably his best as a pro, and he was our No. 6-graded center in the league.
He is set to be replaced, at least initially, by Cody Wallace, for whom the term “journeyman” is particularly well-suited. Wallace has been in the NFL since 2008, but has played just 465 regular-season snaps over that time, with two seasons making up 96 percent of that. In the other five seasons, he has totaled just 18 snaps of play.
Despite the sample size, there are trends that appear in his grading. Wallace is an undersized player, and when he is asked to play left guard he tends to struggle badly. Against Carolina last season he was eaten alive by their powerful tackles. At center he has tended to fare better over his career, but has still never shown anything to suggest he can be better than average on his good days. Look for the Steelers’ O-line play to take a step back for as long as Pouncey is off the field.