BY WILL GRAVES, AP Sports journalist
PITTSBURGH (AP) – Mike and Maurkice Pouncey were born together.
They leave the NFL the same way.
The 31-year-old twin brothers announced their respective resignations on Friday after spending a decade among the league’s top centers. Maurkice Pouncey spent 11 years in Pittsburgh, earning two All-Pro nods and nine Pro Bowl selections while serving as a safety blanket for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Mike Pouncey made the Pro Bowl four times playing for Miami and the Los Angeles Chargers.
“Thank my big brother Mike Pouncey for always pushing me to be the best,” wrote Maurkice Pouncey on Instagram. “The sacrifices we have made will go unnoticed forever, but together (13x ProBowls, 2x first team all Pros, 3x second team all Pro’s) that would have ever thought of that as children!”
Maurkice Pouncey, one minute younger than his “older” brother, had a year left for the three-year contract extension of 33 million US dollars, which he signed in 2019. He was limited to 13 games that season after being put on the Reserve / COVID-19 list and made a very public notice that he was ready to end his life in Pittsburgh’s staggering first-round playoff loss to Continue Cleveland.
Pouncey and Roethlisberger – good friends with their lockers practically next to each other – sat on the bench in Pittsburgh long after the game was over. Roethlisberger later said he was dying to lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl for Pouncey.
“I don’t have the words … I love you and thank you,” Roethlisberger posted on his Facebook page shortly after the announcement.
Both Pounceys starred in Florida. Maurkice’s decision to come out in early 2010 opened the door for his brother to follow him into the league a year later. Maurkice helped the Steelers reach the Super Bowl in his rookie season despite an ankle injury making him a spectator when Pittsburgh fell on Green Bay.
The Steelers never made it back to the largest stage in the game under his watch. The next thing they achieved in the next decade was a loss to New England in the 2016 AFC championship game.
Playing with a mixture of athleticism and ferocity, Maurkice Pouncey developed a reputation as one of the league’s strongest blockers. Still, it came at a cost. He tore his right knee against the Tennessee ACL and MCL in the first quarter of the 2013 season opener and sat out all of 2015 after breaking his left leg in an exhibition game.
“For all the doctors and medical staff who have worked on me, thank you for all the successful operations that would not have been possible without you all!” Maurkice Pouncey wrote.
Pouncey regained his form both times immediately upon his return. He was All-Pro when the Steelers won the AFC North in 2014 and second-team All-Pro in 2016. Maurkice Pouncey was both casual and blunt, serving as an emotional touchstone for an offense that at times ranked among the best in the league – especially during a stretch from 2014-17 when the Steelers won three league titles and played each season’s playoffs .
His departure is the last in a very active off-season for the typically reserved Steelers. A handful of coaches, including offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and offensive coach Shaun Sarrett, had not renewed their contracts. Tight End Vance McDonald, also a close friend of Roethlisberger, retired two weeks ago.
Her absence will be felt by Roethlisberger, who has disclosed his desire to return, despite frequently saying that he would only play as long as Pouncey was there. The Steelers and Roethlisberger are trying to find a way to lower the QB’s $ 41 million ceiling in 2021. Pouncey’s resignation increases the uncertainty about whether Roethlisberger will eventually return for an 18th season.
Mike Pouncey spent the first seven years of his career with the Dolphins, like his brother a first-round draft pick. Miami reached the playoffs only once during his tenure, losing to Pittsburgh in the 2016 wildcard round. Mike Pouncey’s season was long over, however, due to a hip injury recorded as rivals a few weeks after the brothers first met. He applied for his release in spring 2018 and signed with the Chargers. He made the Pro Bowl in his first season when they went 12-4 and reached the divisional round.
Injuries, however, took their toll. Mike Pouncey was limited to five games in 2019 and stopped playing at all in 2020 after hip replacement surgery in September.
“All of my teammates and coaches will miss seeing you guys every day, and I know damn well your (sic) pounce will be missed, lol! ”Pouncey posted on his Instagram page. “Thank you for all the memories that I will keep forever!”
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