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The Steelers' showdown against the visiting New York Jets Sunday will showcase of two of the best centers in the NFL.
And to think Nick Mangold and Maurkice Pouncey might have been teammates had the 2010 draft played out differently.
The Jets were intent on taking Pouncey if he fell to them late in the first round — even though Mangold is entrenched as their center and is likely headed to a third consecutive Pro Bowl.
"They were going to let go of the guard they had, (Alan) Faneca, and put me in there at left guard," said Pouncey, who met with Jets owner Woody Johnson and coach Rex Ryan last April during a pre-draft visit. "I'm glad I'm here."
The Steelers, who took Pouncey with the 18th overall pick in the 2010 draft, feel the same way.
Pouncey's rugged style of play makes him an ideal fit in Pittsburgh. His rapid ascent bodes well for the Steelers continuing the tradition of excellence they have long enjoyed at center.
"You never expect a rookie to play as well as he has, especially at center," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of Pouncey. "He's mentally sharp. He's finishing all the time and always giving that little extra. It ticks guys off but that's what you want."
Pouncey's ability to get to the second level is reminiscent of former Steelers great Dermontti Dawson.
It is one reason why the 6-4, 304-pound Pouncey is a candidate for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
And Pouncey can cement his status as one of the top centers in the game by outplaying Mangold, a first-team All-Pro selection in 2009.
"I think you have two of the best centers in the league going at it," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "I'd take Mangold probably right now over (Pouncey), but this kid is a great football player."
When asked about Mangold yesterday, Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said, "I wouldn't trade Pouncey for him." Roethlisberger probably wouldn't either.
Pouncey has made as seamless a transition from the University of Florida to the NFL as the Steelers could have hoped.
And he hasn't impressed Roethlisberger just because of how quickly he has picked up making pre-snap blocking adjustments.
In the Steelers' 13-10 win at Baltimore earlier this month Roethlisberger said he and a Ravens defensive player were talking after a play when Pouncey came "flying over to break it up."
"He thought we were getting into each other's face," Roethlisberger said with a chuckle. "He's one of those guys that as a quarterback you love."
One of the things the Steelers love most about Pouncey is that he is only 21 and still has plenty of upside.
"I think he's only scratched the surface," Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said, "because I don't think he really understands how good he can be."
Pouncey said his play has been "just OK."
"None of us are satisfied," Pouncey said of the Steelers' offensive linemen. "There's things that we need to fix. Obviously we need to put more points on the board."