Posted by Andy Benoit
Will wrote last night that Dennis Dixon is splitting the first team reps with Byron Leftwich in Pittsburgh. Whichever quarterback winds up filling-in for the suspended Ben Roethlisberger will be taking snaps from rookie Maurkice Pouncey.
The first-round pick from Florida has done something that no Steelers rookie has done since tight end Heath Miller did in 2005: captured a starting job. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Pouncey took (or, rather, gave) all of the first-team snaps in practice on Wednesday. This relegates Justin Hartwig, an experienced veteran but one who lacks good initial quickness, to second-string duties.
Pouncey was originally supposed to spend his rookie season playing guard (and likely in a backup role). But his football IQ and maturity have impressed coaches since the first minicamp. And, being a first-round pick, it goes without saying that his physical ability is top-notch. As Bouchette writes, Pouncey’s fortunes only improved once training camp opened up:
The move has been in the works since the Steelers' coaching staff was blown away by Pouncey's first two practices of training camp July 31. It was after that day they began to re-think their intention of letting Pouncey compete to start at right guard as a rookie, rather than compete with veteran Justin Hartwig at center. As camp progressed, so did Pouncey until coach Mike Tomlin had him split time with Hartwig and the first team all last week in practices.
That division ended Wednesday and, while Pouncey was all smiles, Hartwig was in no mood to talk about it. Hartwig practiced exclusively with the backups Wednesday. He declined to take a question about it.
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