Big week for Pouncey

Steelers Notebook

Maurkice Pouncey continued to take the snaps with the first team offense on Thursday in preparation for Sunday night's game against the Denver Broncos.

Pouncey has made huge strides since he was drafted by the Steelers in the first-round in April, even surprising Coach Mike Tomlin with how he has picked things up.

"I have a low expectation when it comes to young people, not because I don't believe they are talented, it's just that they've got a lot going on," said Tomlin. "Professional football is different from college football.  He has been surprising in terms of how he has adjusted at this point."

Tomlin has yet to make a decision on whether Pouncey or Justin Hartwig will open the season as the team's starting center, and some of it could come down to Pouncey's performance against a formidable opponent in Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jamal Williams.

 "It is really going to largely depend on how he represents himself this week.  Again, a game like this one is an awesome one for many reasons, but they have a guy over there, number 76 (Jamal) Williams, that is a perennial Pro Bowl caliber player and it will be a good measuring stick for a young guy such as Maurkice."

It's another challenge that Pouncey welcomes without hesitation. While many young players wouldn't want the responsibility of making the calls for the offensive line, Pouncey relishes it. 

"I like going out there and knowing everything that is going on," said Pouncey. "I want to make all of the calls. It makes me feel more comfortable out there."

His teammates, both on offense and defense, have been singing his praises in the preseason but you won't hear any of that from the humble rookie.

"I need to get better. I have got to get a lot better," said Pouncey. "I need to Improve on sub-defenses more than anything. It's mostly learning all of the small things. Not anything major, just the small things."

Rookie wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders will move from split end to flanker this week, giving the coaches a chance to see what type of versatility he has.   

 "He has learned them all and from a practice standpoint we've challenged him to execute many of them.  At this point he has played primarily X in football games," said Tomlin. "Big week for him, he is playing Z this week.  We swapped him and Antonio Brown, so it will be interesting to see how those guys play the position in a new position, this week.  Just have to keep pushing the envelope with young guys and give them new and different challenges when they are successful with the ones that you give them."

Injury update from Coach Tomlin: "Status quo.  Everyone appears to be fine, the guys that have been down are progressing, again. Like I mentioned earlier, Bryant McFadden can be characterized as doubtful for this week."

Dan Sepulveda will get another opportunity to kick off when the Steelers play the Denver Broncos on Sunday night.

Sepulveda was pleased with his first outing against the New York Giants, and knows that game experience is the most important thing for him to improve.

"I had a lot of fun. Any time I take on a new challenge I enjoy it," said Sepulveda. "I thought it went well for the first time. I felt comfortable. There are some I didn't hit as good as I know I can, others I thought I hit well. I am continuing to improve. Part of that is getting in there for live game action and feeling it out. Overall I felt comfortable. I feel there is room for improvement, but overall I was happy with it."

Sepulveda is making some alterations in practice to prepare for kickoffs. He will continue to punt on Wednesday, rest his leg on Thursday, but on Friday he will add kickoffs and do light punting.

"We'll see how that goes," he said. "I am certainly punting less than I was in the past to limit the work load. We'll give it a shot and see how it goes. I am confident it won't have an impact on the punting. I am here to punt. That is what I came here to do. I am going to make sure that stays in top form. If kickoffs start to hinder that it's going to be it for me. I don't think that's going to be an issue."

He might only be in his second season, but Mike Wallace is acting like a seasoned veteran by reaching out to the team's young wide receivers, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, to help them out.

"They are going through the same thing I went through last year," said Wallace. "I try to help them out. They are in the same spot I was in last year. With those guys and new guys, like Arnaz (Battle), he helps me, I help him. Same with Antwaan (Randle El), he helps me with my routes and I help him with the concepts and plays we run."

Wallace sees progress in both of them and likes what they bring to the table.

"They can run routes real well, they are physical, they are out there trying to get it, they are blocking, and doing all of the right things that we need in order to be able to go out and play early," said Wallace. "They are making plays and hopefully it will carry over until the next two weeks when we get to regular season."

While Brown is progressing as a receiver, he is also making an impact on the return game and is going to be given even more of an opportunity this week in Denver.

"Any time I get an opportunity to show what I have got, I am willing," said Brown, a sixth-round draft pick this year from Central Michigan. "I embrace the situation. I am thankful coach is giving me the opportunity. Coach said I am going to be back there returning so I am looking forward to it."

Brown will get work with both punt and kickoff returns and it's that versatility that will be a key for him when it comes time to weigh the final roster options.

"I pride myself in being great in not just one aspect, but three aspects, punt return, kick return and wide receiver," said Brown. "None of them weigh more than the other. However I can help the Steelers organization in any of three of those phases I am available and willing."

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