Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey at a Steelers practice last May.
By Ron Cook / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
There is a relationship between a quarterback and his star receiver. There is a relationship between a quarterback and his top running back. Then, there’s a relationship between a quarterback and his offensive linemen, especially his center.
“I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else,” Ben Roethlisberger was saying of Maurkice Pouncey after Steelers practice Wednesday. “I feel so blessed to have him in my life, not just as a football player, but as a friend.”
“He’s my brother,” Pouncey said of Roethlisberger. “When he walks away from football, I’m walking away, too.”
Roethlisberger said he and Pouncey hit it off from day one after Pouncey joined the Steelers as their No. 1 draft pick in 2010. But he had no explanation for how they became so close.
“Sometimes in life, there are just people who are so special to you,” Roethlisberger said. “Heath Miller. … How about Jerricho Cotchery? He wasn’t here that long, yet we had something special between us. It’s the same way with Maurkice. We’ve never clashed. We’ve never butted heads. Even when we’ve had a disagreement — and they’ve been few and far between — it’s over in an instant.”
What Pouncey, a two-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler, brings to Roethlisberger’s offense on the field is obvious. “Comfort” is the word Roethlisberger used.
“I don’t even think about the snap. As a quarterback, you have to think about so much. His snaps are always right there. They’re never off …
“His work ethic is like very few I’ve ever seen. He’s constantly going hard, to the point he drives young linemen crazy. When they’re doing O-line warm-ups, he’s not warming up. He’s full-go right from the get-go. It drives guys crazy. But they know that’s what makes him special.”
And one more thing …
“His mental football is unparalleled to anyone else,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s unbelievable. Awesome.”
Roethlisberger brought up — unsolicited — a play from the 43-14 win Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“How awesome was it watching Pouncey on Le’Veon Bell’s long run? He was 40 yards down the field ahead of Le’Veon, throwing a block. That just shows the selflessness of Maurkice Pouncey. He got up and was more excited and more fired up than Le’Veon was. Going out and playing for his brothers is what he did on that play.”
Pouncey loved every second of it.
“It’s all about fun. Whenever you have plays like that, you look at football and say, ‘This is why I play. This is why I love it. This is why everything we do is worth it.’ ”
Roethlisberger, a big grin on his face and laughter in his voice, provided an addendum.
“The way [Pouncey] jumped up, you wouldn’t think he was even tired after he just ran 50 yards. But then the adrenaline wore off real quick and he looked back at me and gave me a look like, ‘Ben, please call a timeout.’ I said, ‘Relax, buddy, I’ll get you.’ ”
“He called the timeout,” Pouncey said. “That’s why he’s a great quarterback. He looks out for his guys.”
Especially his linemen.
“I’m so proud of those guys,” Roethlisberger said. “They’re not shown on ‘SportsCenter.’ We’re showing Antonio [Brown] doing his dancing and Le’Veon making plays. But, really, none of that happens without the selflessness of the guys up front.”
If there’s a knock against Pouncey, it’s that he has missed significant time — all last season and practically all 2013 — because of ankle, knee and leg injuries. He took umbrage when asked about the perception of some that he is injury-prone.
“That’s crazy if they’re saying that. I’m getting taken out. It’s not like I’ve had hamstrings. Let me dive on the back of guys’ legs and see what happens.
“I think the media and the outside world look at this sport and think guys should never get hurt. They look at it like it’s basketball or something. This is a gladiator sport. What do you guys think? We’re 300-pound men playing as physical as we can. You think no one is going to get hurt? It’s almost comical. It’s not like we’re sitting at a desk and writing papers all day.”
Roethlisberger knows too well about injuries. He never would question Pouncey’s toughness. That’s why he made sure to include Pouncey when he bought $5,000 watches for his offensive linemen after last season.
“I told him I don’t deserve this watch. I haven’t blocked one play for you,” Pouncey said.
“You always have done something for me and always will,” Roethlisberger responded.
“Very few quarterbacks in their lifetime get an opportunity to play with a guy who is as special as he is for as long as we have,” Roethlisberger said. “I hope he’s here until I’m done.”
Now, it was Pouncey’s turn to laugh.
“I’ll be here. But I’m serious, man. When he’s gone, I’m gone.”
There are relationships and then there is that relationship.
Ron Cook: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @RonCookPG. Ron Cook can be heard on the “Cook and Poni” show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.
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