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WP: Pre-Week 1 – How Valuable Is An All-Pro Center?

This season, I will be writing weekly articles at The Washington Post. My first article looks at how valuable Maurkice Pouncey is to the Steelers.

Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey suffered a severe lower leg injury in an Aug. 23 preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, landing the team’s top offensive lineman on the short-term injured reserve list, which will sideline him until at least Week 9, though the injury may keep him out for even longer. Given that the team once again figures to have one of the weaker defenses in the NFL, Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes rest on the offense performing at a peak level. So how much worse should we expect the Steelers offense to be without Pouncey?

The Steelers were very successful on offense in 2014, ranking among the top eight teams by most metrics, including traditional categories such as points, yards and first downs, as well as advanced tools, including Football Outsiders’ DVOA, and Advanced Football Analytics’ EPA model. One hidden reason for the team’s success on offense last year was great health: According to Football Outsiders, no offense lost fewer games to injury last year than Pittsburgh.

You can read the full article here.

  • sacramento gold miners

    Extremely difficult to quantify the loss of an outstanding center, he’s the QB of the offensive line. Missed the game tonight, but anytime a defense can cause more disruption in the middle, that’s an issue. I’m struggling to think of SB winners without good centers, Sean Mahan of the ’08 Steelers may have been the worst.

  • James

    “It’s important to remember that the Associated Press may be biased in this regard, as voters may be more likely to select the game’s top center when choosing among the top offenses.”

    To wit, your chart says from 1970-1987 only one All Pro center was on a team worse than 10th in PPG. Yet there’s been 5 in the past 7 years.

    Plausible explanations: 1) Centers aren’t as important as they used to be. 2) The AP used to be very biased towards the top offenses when selecting centers. 3) Random chance that the best centers no longer happen to be on the best teams.

    • I think part of the issue with Pouncey and AP1s (and Pro Bowls) is that he was given those honors before he came close to earning them. He was very good last year, but prior to that he was just an average-to-pretty-good player who got much recognition for being a high draft pick from a popular championship college who was supposed to be the heir apparent to Webster/Dawson.

      Even with all the access they have to view film, I don’t believe most AP voters actually watch offensive line play when voting for All Pro teams. Even if they did, I doubt most of them would know how to evaluate offensive line play. The ill-informed media elevated Pouncey before he deserved it, and they will keep him there until he falls off a cliff. This happens with most good offensive linemen. I am pretty certain Joe Thomas will continue making Pro Bowls and getting All Pro votes well after he is actually deserving of the honors.