Steelers Notes: Essex looking over his shoulder

By: Mike Bires Beaver County Times
Wednesday August 11, 2010

Trai Essex is a starter for now. But he knows that his status as the first-string right guard is anything but a lock.

Not with Maurkice Pouncey gaining more confidence by the moment.

Pouncey, the Steelers’ first-round pick in this year’s draft, is considered the Steelers’ center of the future. But during off-season workouts in Pittsburgh and now here at training camp, he has worked at both center and guard.

There’s no doubt Pouncey is going to play this year in some capacity. He may be the back-up center to Justin Hartwig. He may back up Essex. He may even steal away Essex’s starting job.

“There’s always competition, but right now, I am a starter. That’s how I’m approaching,” said Essex, a sixth-year pro who spent most of his first four years with the Steelers as a reserve tackle. “There’s no lack of fire in my preparation. I practice with the same intensity like I always have. I feel like I’m competing for a job. That’s always the case. You’re never guaranteed anything in this business.

“I know they drafted Pouncey to come in and play center or right guard, and he’s having a great camp. He’s very gifted athlete. But I am still the starter. I want to start. I’m not here every day at practice trying to become a backup. I was a backup for the majority of my career. I don’t want to go back. I had a taste of starting last year. My mindset is that I want to remain a starter.”


Every day at practice, the Steelers’ offense works out against the Steelers’ 3-4 defense. But on Wednesday morning, the offense got in some work against a 4-3 unit made up of third- and fourth stringers. That’s because the Steelers’ first three games of the regular season come against teams that run 4-3 defenses — Atlanta, Tennessee and Tampa Bay.


Four wounded U.S. soldiers who are patients at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C. visited camp and watched the afternoon practice. Afterwards, they met with a handful of Steelers and coach Mike Tomlin. “I’m honored and at the same time humbled for the sacrifices they make to us as a country and for the citizens of this country,” Tomlin said. “What (our military) does is quite remarkable so I’m glad we can entertain these men today.”