Share This Page

Steelers won't change scheme after Pouncey injury

| Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, 10:18 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey is helped from the field after suffering a left ankle injury during a game against the Packers Sunday at Heinz Field. The team endured its second-worst yards-per-game average in 2013 when Pouncey tore his ACL and MCL eight plays into the season.

Two years ago, the Steelers had plans of incorporating outside zone runs into their offense to take advantage of an athletic line and a rookie running back who thrived in that kind of scheme.

Eight plays into the season, that all changed.

Maurkice Pouncey tore his ACL and MCL on the first drive of 2013, and the new blocking scheme the Steelers worked on through the spring and summer was discarded.

This time, that won't happen. The Steelers are moving forward with the same offensive mindset as if they had a healthy Pouncey.

Pouncey broke his left fibula near his ankle against the Packers, which will land him on the injured reserve/designated to return to start the season.

The designation will keep Pouncey out a minimum of the first six weeks. He more likely will return some time after the Nov. 22 bye.

Despite veteran journeyman Cody Wallace having a different playing style than Pouncey, the Steelers' record-setting offense from last season won't deviate from their playbook to suit him.

“Not really,” Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “We might have had a few what we called ‘gadget plays' that involved the center that we might not be able to get to that would've been a down-the-road thing anyway.”

Pulling the center will remain in the game plan in the run game. So will the expectations for Wallace to get to the second level to block linebackers and to make all of the calls along the offensive line, even though he has started only four career games at center.

Haley pointed to a second-level block Wallace executed on Julius Peppers during last week's preseason game against the Packers as an example.

“Not much will change that way,” offensive line coach Mike Munchak said. “We will see as the games develop. There were things that we would put in because he could do something more, but it won't limit us in any way.”

Even though there are similarities to what transpired in 2013 with the loss of Pouncey, there are differences that make this year's team more equipped to deal with losing their All-Pro center.

Two years ago, the running game faltered after Pouncey's injury and was the second worst in the history of the organization and lowest (86.4 yards per game) in a 16-game schedule. The offense finished 20th in the league as the Steelers went 8-8 and missed the playoffs.

The Steelers also were without Le'Veon Bell and Heath Miller for the early part of the season.

“Two years ago when it happened, I was concerned,” Haley said. “The fact that we went through it with a lot of the same people means something. I think we came a long way as a group.”

The offensive line wasn't as established, either. Mike Adams started at left tackle before getting benched a quarter of the way through the season, and David DeCastro was coming off a knee injury that sidelined him most of his rookie year.

“The big thing now is that we have practice time, and that is something that we didn't have last time,” guard Ramon Foster said. “We aren't going to change up much at all. We just can't just bag a lot of stuff because Pouncey is down right now.”

Wallace is more of a brawler and finisher than a typical center.

“Everybody has their strengths and weakness, and I will go out there and do what I do best,” Wallace said.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.