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Pouncey was their man all along

When the process began for the Steelers player personnel department, back at a time when the football team was still involved in the 2009 regular season, he was their man. When the league gathered for the scouting combine in late February, he was their man. After his pro day, he was their man. When they conducted their own mock draft on April 21, the eve of the first round, he was still their man.

The first round of the 2010 NFL Draft is now history, and whenever its story is told in the years to come, it will be noted that the Steelers got their man.

For them, all along, it was Florida center Maurkice Pouncey.

"Well I don't think there was any big secret or surprise," said Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert, "because I think that every mock draft I saw had us picking Maurkice Pouncey."

Every first round has its uh-oh moment, when things deviate from what had been the conventional thinking, and sometimes things then deviate drastically.

The Radio City Music Hall was rather dead through the first seven picks, because St. Louis, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Washington, Kansas City, Seattle and Cleveland followed form and selected the players most everyone had at the top of the first round.

Maybe the argument could be made that Russell Okung should have been chosen over Trent Williams as the first offensive tackle to be selected, but both of them being among the top seven overall picks went according to form. Even the Raiders, picking eighth and notorious for thinking outside the box, chose Rolando McClain, a logical selection in that he was considered the best inside linebacker in this draft.

When the Buffalo Bills got on the clock, things started to get a little weird, and then once players started coming off the board in a way that was somewhat unexpected that triggered a flurry of trades with teams jumping up to get guys they might not have expected to be available.

The Bills added running back C.J. Spiller ninth overall just three years after picking Marshawn Lynch 12th overall, and then the Jaguars stunned talking heads on two different networks when they chose defensive tackle Tyson Alualu from California.

Anthony Davis from Rutgers was judged to be capable of playing left tackle in the NFL and since those guys are hard to find, the San Francisco 49ers traded up to No. 11 to pick him. The San Diego Chargers came into this looking for a replacement for running back LaDainian Tomlinson, and so they traded up to No. 12 to pick Ryan Matthews from Fresno State. The Philadelphia Eagles were intent on juicing their pass rush and got themselves up to No. 13 to pick Brandon Graham of Michigan.

With Seattle on the clock at No. 14 and already having chosen an offensive lineman, the Steelers had only four teams between them and their pick at 18th overall. And things progressed rather quickly, especially considering the way teams often mull over these kinds of decisions.

Texas safety Earl Thomas went to the Seahawks; the New York Giants didn't need a whole lot of time to select South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul; and then Tennessee made Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan the fourth straight defensive player to come off the board.

When the 49ers made Idaho guard Mike Iupati their second pick of the first round, the Steelers needed very little time to complete the courtship that had begun months ago.

"There were calls coming in (from teams looking to make a trade)," said Colbert, "but we were very happy that he was there, and we weren't going to trade away from him."

It's one of the contingencies for which the Steelers always prepare in advance, that being the compilation of a list of players who are good enough that no trade offers to move out of the spot will be accepted.

Maurkice Pouncey was one of those players this year for the Steelers, and he was one of those players even though he is a center and centers aren't usually picked this high in the first round, even though the Steelers haven't picked a center on the first round since 1937.

"He was that good," said Colbert. "It really has nothing to do with the position. He was just that good. It was pretty evident early on when we started to evaluate this kid. Again, as a junior, we got on with the process late with him. It was evident early on that this was someone who was going to be interesting to us, where we were going to be picking. And really there was no predetermined position, anything like that. It was just that he was that good."

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