On the Steelers: Pouncey drawing comparisons to Dawson
Sunday, November 07, 2010
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peter Diana/Post-GazetteSteelers center Maurkice Pouncey.The video from New Orleans of that first-down play inches from the Saints' goal line had to be difficult for the Steelers to watch again, unless they focused on its beginning.

Maurkice Pouncey centered the football to Ben Roethlisberger, fired out and flattened the man across from him, put him on his back. Had everyone done the same, Isaac Redman would have scored a touchdown instead of getting spilled in the backfield.

It has become typical of the play of the Steelers' rookie center. The great, long tradition at center for the Steelers, interrupted briefly, seems to be back in good hands with Pouncey, who looks like a young Dermontti Dawson.

"I like his mobility, and for a young guy, he's playing like a veteran,'' said Dawson, who watched the Steelers-Saints game from his home in Lexington, Ky. "From the few times I've seen him play, what I did watch, I know he's very mobile. He uses his hands very well. Both in run-blocking and pass-blocking, he repositions his hands and doesn't get his body out of sync. He doesn't put his body in bad position."

No one did that better at center than Dawson, who carried on the tradition at the position that Mike Webster dominated for so long and that Ray Mansfield played so well before him. It was an unbroken string that continued with another Pro Bowl center, Jeff Hartings, until 2006. Between the seasons of 1978 and 1998, the Steelers put a center in the Pro Bowl 16 times, Webster going nine and Dawson seven. Hartings added two more.

Webster is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Dawson made it to the final 10 last year and should be inducted one day. Pouncey, of course, is starting out, but he is the first of them all to start his first rookie game at center and he looks like a budding Dawson in his style of play.

"I think that really is not an unfair comparison,'' said Dick LeBeau, who coached with both. "With Dermontti, I was with him at the very peak of his career. I don't think I've ever seen any centers any better and very few as good. In terms of athleticism and good, aggressive, wanting-to-finish-the-job kind of play, I think that's a good comparison."

Another man who has seen both is Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis, who coached the linebackers on Bill Cowher's first staff and later Baltimore's defensive coordinator. Lewis agreed that Pouncey has some of Dawson's characteristics.

"I think he has that athleticism. He is probably slightly bigger than what Dermontti was. You see that in him and you see the upper body strength against the lower body strength and that's what it takes to be an effective lineman in the NFL."

Pouncey also has a trait that Webster possessed. Webby hated to come out of game, would even at times refuse to do so, no matter what the score. Pouncey has played every snap this season, the only Steeler to do so, and claims he never came out of games in Florida.

"I don't come out of that game, nooooo,'' Pouncey said.

He received a phone call from Dawson not long after the Steelers drafted Pouncey in the first round in April.

"I welcomed him to Steelers Nation," Dawson said. "I told him if he has any questions or anything feel free to call me."

They've kept in touch. Pouncey congratulated Dawson on another Hall of Fame nomination last year.

"For him to call me out of the blue like that . . . he's a good dude. Hopefully, I'll be able to meet up with him one day and hang out with him."

It might have come tomorrow night. Dawson spent the preseason as a coaching intern with the Bengals (he was a scouting intern for the Steelers in the summer of '09), but had to leave when the season began to attend to some business and a move in Lexington, where he serves on the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees, appointed by the governor.

But their meeting might have been delayed only a week. Dawson plans to attend the Steelers' game next Sunday night against New England at Heinz Field.

"That,'' Pouncey said, "would be amazing.''

That Harrison hit
James Harrison may have been wronged by the NFL when the league smacked him with a $75,000 fine for a hit in the Cleveland game Oct. 17, but he had no beef over his latest $20,000 fine.

Harrison is frustrated by all the fines, all the attention and questions how to adjust his game. One way to adjust would be to not place his helmet into the middle of the quarterback's spine after he throws a pass.

Harrison thought he had put his helmet to the side of Brees, but replays clearly show that was not the case. The video even seemed to show Harrison purposely smacked his helmet into Brees' back, and that no doubt is why the NFL laid another significant hit on him.

Nearly a horror film
The tragedy at Notre Dame involving the death of a student video cameraman when high winds collapsed his tower was, fortunately, a rare event, even though kids such as Declan Sullivan work under sometimes difficult, often dangerous, weather conditions.

It's not just 50-mph winds that endanger them as they try to concentrate on filming practice perched 25 feet in the air. There also is lightning. Even normally sensible football coaches can lose their good sense when it comes to the job at hand, a coach such as Hall of Famer Chuck Noll.

Typically, Noll continued to practice at Saint Vincent College training camp as a thunderstorm would arrive. He would often say that he could tell how far the lightning was by counting between the flash and the thunderclap. All practices are taped -- filmed back then -- by those largely anonymous guys atop what then was scaffolding and now are mechanical lifts.

Art Rooney Jr., Dan's brother, headed the Steelers personnel department until the mid-1980s and his son, Mike, filmed many a summer practice. Art has told the story of how one day, a thunderstorm began during a training camp practice.

As practice wound down, the lightning got more severe. Artie walked over to the scaffolding and called for his son to come down to safety. Mike packed up his camera and began climbing down. Noll, seeing this, ran over and shouted for Mike to "get back up there" because practice wasn't over and he wanted film of it.

Art Rooney Jr. said he turned to Noll and said, "You want film of this practice, send YOUR son up there!"

A Board of review
Noll was criticized for keeping Dwight White one year too long and releasing Dwaine Board to do so in 1980. Board was a fifth-round draft pick in 1979, a promising defensive lineman who, after the Steelers released him, went to San Francisco and played a big role for those 49ers Super Bowl teams. It was not until later that Noll's decision on that personnel move came into question.

Will history judge the Thaddeus Gibson release (and arrival on the 49ers roster) in a similar vein?

It is rare when the Steelers release someone and that player goes on to bigger and better things, one reason the White/Board example from 30 years ago comes up. They've missed people in the draft, they've allowed a few free agents to flourish elsewhere (Mike Vrabel), but rarely do others benefit much from their cuts. Maybe Thaddeus Gibson will become the next Dwaine Board. Or maybe he will become the next Anthony Smith.

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