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Pouncey soaks in atmosphere with Steelers

Maurkice and Michael Pouncey are identical twins and have long shared a special bond, if not the same wavelength.

But even Michael Pouncey couldn't have known what was swirling through his brother's mind as he took part in his first practices with the Steelers last weekend.

And when he called Maurkice, he said, "You are in the NFL and you play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. How does it feel?"

Pouncey's response to his brother: "I'm just trying to establish myself."

Pouncey, a first-round draft pick, and the rest of the Steelers' rookie class took small steps toward doing that during minicamp.

Make that baby steps.

All of them experienced different levels of shock and awe as they practiced with veterans that have won multiple Super Bowls — and tried to digest a playbook that is as thick as a phonebook.

The mistakes the youngsters made were expected by coach Mike Tomlin. What Tomlin wanted to see is how they responded to failure.

"When they mess up, how do they take instruction?" Tomlin said Sunday after the fifth and final practice of minicamp. "Are they able to put it behind them• It's a little window into how they would potentially ride the roller coaster that comes with being a player in this league. That's all I was really looking for from those guys."

Judging from Pouncey's smile as he talked about his first experience as an NFL player, the former Florida All-American handled the ups and downs well enough.

"This is a great experience and a great team," said Pouncey, the 18th overall pick of this year's draft. "All of the guys take you in, none of that hazing kind of thing. It's just, 'Win championships.' "

It will take some time for the Steelers to determine how much Pouncey can help them in their quest to win a Super Bowl in 2010.

The 6-foot-4, 304-pounder won the Rimington Trophy, given to the outstanding center in college football, in 2009. He will play right guard for the Steelers this season.

Trai Essex is the incumbent, but Pouncey figures to challenge the sixth-year veteran if he picks up the offense quickly enough.

What bodes well for Pouncey making an immediate impact for the Steelers: He is one of the few true freshmen to start at Florida for coach Urban Meyer, and he is apparently eager to learn.

"He didn't come in with any type of ego," left tackle Max Starks said of his fellow Florida alum. "That's what you want to see, especially in an offensive lineman. You want a young guy to come in that wants to learn and wants to get better."

Pouncey will spend the next two weeks in Florida, working out and studying the Steelers' playbook.

When offseason practices resume May 18, he and the rest of the rookies will work toward simply getting better daily.

And Pouncey is sure to do it with a smile as he gets used to his new surroundings.

"I'm sitting in here looking at all of the other guys that played in the Super Bowl," Pouncey said Sunday afternoon before leaving the Steelers' locker room, "and just trying to soak in what they've got and follow their lead."

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