Harris: Pouncey impresses Steelers players

| Saturday, April 24, 2010

Two days later, Steelers first-round draft pick Maurkice Pouncey still looks like a steal.

To me, drafting Pouncey in the first round reinforces a promise made by team president Art Rooney II that the Steelers will run more this season, especially in traditional running situations.

With the No. 18 pick, it's extremely difficult to obtain a hulking offensive lineman who's also extremely light on his feet.

Not since Alan Faneca, and before him Dermontti Dawson, have the Steelers invested so early in the draft for a blocker whose quick first step gets him into the secondary and atop defenders before they can react.

"He's got real good agility and great feet," said speed and conditioning coach Tom Shaw, who trained Pouncey at Disney's Wide World of Sports prior to the NFL Draft. "He showed up right after Florida's bowl game and worked all the way through. He was already good before he got here, but he got stronger, more explosive and lost body fat.''

Pouncey modestly described his towering 6-foot-4, 304-pound frame as nothing special when so many offensive linemen are pear-shaped.

"I've got a nice little offensive lineman's body — I'm in good shape,'' said Pouncey, who claims he lowered his 40 time from "a high 5.3 to a low 5.2, almost 5.1'' while working with Shaw. "I wanted to run better, and I learned so much technique. I've got a great twitch off the ball — so explosive.

"I improved everything.''

Pouncey displays a low-key swagger on the field. He carries himself differently from other offensive linemen, some of who attempt to hide their bulky frames under loose-fitting clothes.

Pouncey does nothing of the sort. He's like the 7-foot basketball player who stands tall and doesn't duck down to make himself appear shorter so as not to bring attention to himself.

"He wants to show off," Shaw said. "There's no fat on this kid.

"It's all about how hard he works. He comes in 30 minutes before we're supposed to be there, and he gets 30 minutes of cardio in on the bike just to get warmed up before we even start. He doesn't want to lose at anything. He wants to be the best. He's dedicated.''

Pouncey trained briefly in Florida with Steelers defensive starters and Shaw regulars James Farrior, Ike Taylor and William Gay.

Taylor came away impressed with the big kid who never took a drill off and didn't permit anyone — NFL or college player — to outwork him.

"For a guy that size to be that athletic ...'' Taylor said without finishing the sentence.

"He's a dog,'' Taylor continued. "What I mean is, he's aggressive on the field. You look at our offensive linemen — Willie Colon, Chris Kemoeatu. Those guys are real aggressive, too.

"I worked out with him, so I know what type of guy we've got. He's going to make a Pro Bowl sooner than people expect.''

Even if Pouncey is a rookie, it doesn't change his bottom line.

Just because he still looks like a kid doesn't mean he plays like one.

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