Steelers O-linemen David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey building Canton-worthy resumes
One of the major storylines leading up to Sunday’s game between the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers was Saints defensive end Cam Jordan openly questioning Ben Roethlisberger’s Hall of Fame bona fides.
Fitting, because a couple of days earlier in relative characteristic anonymity, a pair of other Steelers had their Hall of Fame resumes further buttressed.
Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro were each named to the AFC Pro Bowl team for the third consecutive season. Pouncey was selected as the starting center, and DeCastro was chosen to start to his immediate right — just like those two have been for 46 of the past 50 Steelers games, including playoffs.
It was Pouncey’s seventh Pro Bowl honor. Every season he has played at least one full game, he has been named to the AFC team. For DeCastro, it was his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl berth.
Later this month, DeCastro is also expected to make it four All-Pro (first- or second-team) honors in a row. Pouncey already has four to his name.
At a position in which objective evaluation via statistics are scarce, Pro Bowl and All-Pro recognition carries weight when it comes time to consider offensive linemen for Hall of Fame enshrinement.
In their ninth and seventh NFL seasons and at age 29 and 28, respectively, have Pouncey and DeCastro already earned that sort of consideration?
“How I view Hall of Famers is, for at least a moment of let’s say three, to five to six years, were you the best at your position?” Steelers left guard Ramon Foster said. “And they have been. So I think you have to start considering that type of stuff. Absolutely.”
Foster’s correct that it’s not easy for guards and centers to get into the Hall of Fame. In the what the Hall calls its Modern Era, there are only seven pure centers who have earned induction.
There’s 11 guards — and one is Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak. He shares not only a position room with Pouncey and DeCastro, like them he was also a first-round pick and had an All-Pro running mate who was also a first-round pick in fellow Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews.
Munchak was a left guard for the Houston Oilers between 1982-93; Matthews played a variety of positions near Munchak during that time.
“(Pouncey and DeCastro) push each other in a way that is very positive,” Munchak said. “Very quietly, without them saying it, you know it’s going on. I was that way with Matthews.
“Maurkice will see Dave do something, ‘Man, that was pretty darn good. I need to do that, too.’ And Dave with Pouncey. It’s a quiet competitiveness.”
Though for their ages it’s probably fair to say DeCastro and Pouncey are on a track for Hall of Fame consideration, they each still have a long way to go. Consider Alan Faneca (nine Pro Bowls, eight first- or second-team All-Pro honors) has been passed over for enshrinement for five years now.
But if they play at a high level into their mid-30s, could DeCastro and Pouncey become the first pure guard/center pair of teammates in the Modern Era to get gold jackets? Among Hall of Fame linemen only Munchak and Matthews have any measurable experience at all playing those two positions, but for the majority of their time together they both played guard.
Each of the other five offensive lineman duos from the Modern Era includes a pure tackle. And only two other duos played together for more than five seasons and made the Pro Bowl together.
The greatness Pouncey and DeCastro are displaying — together — is something in some ways the NFL hasn’t seen in generations.
“It just speaks volumes on the whole offense, (it’s not) just me and Dave.” Pouncey said. “Everyone has to play well for any of the guys to look great, (because) this is such an awesome team sport.”
As far as whether they will get to the Hall of Fame some day, Pouncey and DeCastro each wholeheartedly endorse each other — but, predictably, neither will make a case for himself.
“Pounce, he raises my game,” DeCastro said. “He’s a natural leader, a natural kind of alpha male type guy. He’s a rises-tide-lifts-all-ships kind of player. … A guy I love being in there with.”
On Sunday, DeCastro and Pouncey will again be entrusted to protect Roethlisberger, a task they have combined with Foster, right tackle Matt Feiler and Pro Bowl left tackle Alejandro Villanueva to perform with aplomb all season. The Steelers’ 20 sacks against is the fourth fewest in the NFL.
Part of the duties for Pouncey and DeCastro against the Saints will involve blocking Jordan, whose 12 sacks are tied for eighth in the league.
Ironic, then, that if the Steelers linemen do their jobs Roethlisberger has all the more chance of doing his well — and of further cementing a Hall of Fame resume Jordan questioned. All while Pouncey and DeCastro continue to build legacies that are increasingly Canton-worthy, without the social-media and ESPN debate-show buzz.
Just the life of a lineman, even one that makes the Pro Bowl virtually every year.
“(The Hall of Fame) is not something ever talked about at all in any way,” Munchak said. “When you retire and maybe look back on what how your career went and what you are happy about… that’s when you can say — and hopefully someone else doing it for you — ‘He made this many this or this many that.’ But that’s not how those guys are.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.