This is the seventh in a series that takes a post-training camp look at every position for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Next up is center.
Projected starter: Pouncey. The three-time Pro Bowler returns to anchor the offensive line after missing all but eight snaps last season because of a torn ACL. The Steelers left no doubt that they expect Pouncey to make a healthy return -- and a return to the elite tier at his position -- by signing him to five-year contract extension in June. The new deal made Pouncey one of the highest-paid centers in the NFL.
Projected number on 53-man roster: One. The only reason I didn’t include Wallace here is I had him making the team at guard in an earlier post. The journeyman appears to have found a measure of stability with the Steelers, and he will serve as the primary interior line reserve.
Rookie watch: Elkins, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area, got singled out by Pouncey early in camp for holding his own in pass-blocking drills. Elkins is generously listed at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, and he is small by offensive lineman standards. That is why Pouncey tagged him with the nickname “Chicken Nugget” during offseason practices. Elkins played sparingly in the Steelers’ 19-16 win over the Buffalo Bills, and his best hope is to land on the practice squad.
What we learned in camp: Pouncey is all the way back from the knee injury that cost him almost all of the 2013 season. Just as in offseason practices he wasn’t limited at St. Vincent College though coach Mike Tomlin gave him the occasional day off. Rookie Wesley Johnson, who is listed as a tackle and guard, also played center. That, in fact, is where the fifth-round draft pick played in the Steelers’ first two preseason games.
He said it: “He really didn’t get a chance to play last year so that’s a lot of frustration that’s behind him now and you can see how excited he is about playing again. I’m looking forward for him to be part of that. He’s another guy that prepares well and it’s important to him and he's very prideful. He’s their leader out there. There’s no doubt about that so I think it’s going to be fun to watch unfold.” -- New offensive line coach Mike Munchak on Pouncey