MAURKICE POUNCEY, Center
For his second NFL training camp, Pouncey arrived in Latrobe wearing a pair of plush Steelers-logoed slippers. "Size 15s," Pouncey says. "You have to get them a little big." Few rookies played bigger last season than the 6'4", 304-pound center out of Florida, who displayed the quick feet, bulldozing strength and sharp mind of an elite offensive lineman. He was a key cog in Pittsburgh's ground game, which sprung Rashard Mendenhall for a career-high 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns, and he anchored a line that gave Ben Roethlisberger better protection than he'd had in years. (He was sacked fewer times per game than in any of the previous five seasons.)
As a rookie Pouncey, 22, started every regular-season game and the first two playoff games before sustaining a left-ankle sprain that sidelined him for the Super Bowl. During the lockout he returned to Gainesville, worked out with his old college team and underwent "a heavy rehab" on the ankle, he says. Pouncey tweaked the ankle again in Week 3 of the preseason but was expected to be ready for the opener. With Pittsburgh having released tackles Max Starks and Flozell Adams, two starters from last year, Pouncey must stay healthy and help a new line coalesce quickly. He doesn't believe the slippers are too big to fill.