Maurkice Pouncey not getting ahead of himself

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers lead the NFL in rushing and yards per carry. That means little to nothing to center Maurkice Pouncey.

"It's only three games but it's a good start for us," the three-time Pro Bowler said. "Hopefully we can say by the end of the year that we're the No. 1 rushing team."

Pouncey knows better than to get ahead of himself.

The fifth-year veteran strongly hinted that's what happened after the Steelers rushed for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 16 carries while rolling to a 27-3 halftime lead against the Cleveland Browns in the season opener.

"We came into halftime of the first game and we were all happy and kind of pumped up about ourselves and then we came out in the second half flat," Pouncey said.

The Steelers managed just 35 rushing yards on 14 carries in the second half, and they needed a Shaun Suisham field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter to win 30-27 and avert an epic collapse.

The line did not play particularly well in a 26-6 loss at the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 11 but it dominated the Carolina Panthers' vaunted front seven last Sunday night.

The Steelers piled up 264 rushing yards and their success running the ball is why they lead the NFL with 163.3 rushing yards per game and 6.0 yards per carry.

"They took a lot of hurt [from] the Baltimore game and so I think they kind of put all that into a little ball of rage and took it out on Carolina," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.

The linemen felt so guilty about a shot that Roethlisberger took early in the Baltimore game -- Ravens outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw drilled Big Ben in the chest on the third play of the game -- that Pouncey apologized to his quarterback on the plane ride back to Pittsburgh.

And this was after the 37-19 win at Carolina where the line played its best game in years.

"For him to take a big-time hit like that, knowing we could have done a little better, that's how you should feel as a lineman," Pouncey said. "If you don't then something's wrong."

Such accountability is only part of the reason why the Steelers are so happy to have Pouncey back after he went down just eight snaps into last season with a torn ACL.

"He is one of the best at his position if not the best," Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. "The more good players and great players you have the better you are. But he's such an energy bringer. He brings so much with him every day. You know when he is in the room. You know when he is in the hallway. You know, obviously, when he's out here. There is no substitute for that."