Maurkice Pouncey: Game Ball, 'Free Pouncey' Sweatshirts Were "Very Touching"

Noah Strackbein

PITTSBURGH -- 'Free Pouncey' filled the tunnel at Heinz Field as players made their way into the stadium last Sunday. The Steelers' Week 13 matchup with the Cleveland Browns had more headlines than a possible playoff change. While Devlin Hodges was making his first start since Week 6, Maurkice Pouncey was missing his first of the season due to suspension. 

In Week 11, Pouncey's season took a two-game halt for his involvement in the altercation between Myles Garrett and Mason Rudolph. An incident that left Garrett suspended indefinitely and over 30 players fined. For Pouncey, he was knocked two games. 

"I think it just showed all y'all, I think the guys knew," Pouncey explained about his efforts as a teammate. "If you're my teammate I ride for you no matter what, so. A lot of good came out of it." 

The Steelers hosted the Browns for a rematch in Week 13 after losing 21-7 in Week 11. This time, the team turned out an impressive win over their AFC North rival. Afterwards, they awarded Pouncey the game ball. 

"That was pretty cool honestly," Pouncey said. "The 'Free Pouncey' shirts, the game ball, it was very touching, man, it was awesome for the guys to do that."

Pouncey said he was surprised by the game ball but he knew about the team's plan to wear the 'Free Pouncey' sweatshirts. As for the game ball, it's his first, describing the feeling as "pretty cool."

Pouncey admitted it was strange watching the game from home when he wasn't injured. These last two weeks were the first games the center has missed since 2017, but he made the most of it. 

"It's a little bit different when you're not hurt or injured and you're just watching at the house," Pouncey said. "I actually got up on Sunday and went and did some cardio; it felt like I was playing."

The Steeler spent his spare time working out at local gyms, and found another level of appreciation for the people of Pittsburgh. 

"Honestly, there's some good people in Pittsburgh," Pouncey said. "I was at Planet Fitness, LA Fitness, running and talking to people so it was awesome."

Everyone who saw him would tell him he should've "thrown an extra kick" or would "raise their fist" to imitate punching something. Always showing their support for the suspended player. 

Pittsburgh won the two games during Pouncey's absence and currently sit in the sixth seed of the AFC playoff picture at 7-5. The veteran joked that the team "didn't need" him on the field, but had nothing but praise on the Steelers' ability to turn their offense around. 

Now, Pouncey is simply excited to get back onto the field with his teammates. 

"I feel like it's the beginning of the year. I have a lot of energy so we're going to see how things turn out today at practice," Pouncey said. "I know all the guys are excited. We just got to stay humble and focused."