Two Steelers earned team honors as center Maurkice Pouncey was named the winner of the 'Joe Greene Great Performance Award,' given annually to the team's outstanding rookie, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won 'The Chief" Award for his cooperation with the media. Both awards were presented by the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America.
Pouncey, the team's first-round draft pick out of Florida, has started all 15 games at center and has been the anchor of the offensive line.
"The Joe Greene Award is a great honor, especially named after a guy like that," said Pouncey.
Pouncey attended the annual rookie luncheon this year, which honors the previous year's top rookie. As Mike Wallace was accepting his award, offensive line coach Sean Kugler put the pressure on Pouncey.
"We all sat down at the same table talking it up, and he [Sean Kugler] looked me dead in my face and he was like, 'You better win that award.' So that's all I was thinking about the whole season was getting that award for him. It means a lot."
Pouncey was also voted in to the 2011 Pro Bowl, enjoying a successful week.
"Man it's going great," said Pouncey. "I can't complain at all. It is really a proud moment for me right now, but if I could, I would give it all away for the Super Bowl."
He credits his teammates and coaches, especially his fellow offensive linemen, for helping him have such a successful rookie season.
"They've been there every step," said Pouncey. "Anything I have ever needed they are there for me. They always bring me up, giving me small pointers to work out there in practice. I give a lot of things to Coach Kugler. He's been great to me. I come in on Tuesdays and I meet with him about the game plan, what we are going to run, the pass protections. He's just always been there for me, teaching me how to be a professional football player."
Pouncey became just the third Steelers' offensive lineman to start the first game of his rookie season since the mid-1960s and has a chance to be the first offensive rookie to start all regular-season games for the Steelers since wide receiver Ron Shanklin started all 14 games in 1970. He is also part of an impressive lineage at center that includes Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson.
"Those guys are great," said Pouncey. "I am nowhere near where those guys are. I am just trying to play up to their level. Like I said those guys are great players and I love them. I text Dermonnti Dawson back and forth. He gives me little things to think about. I watched a little bit of film on him. And he was a heck of a player."
Roethlisberger stood at the podium accepting the Chief Award and talked about apologizing to some in the media during the spring for not being cooperative with them in the past.
He has made a huge turnaround and that is why he was voted the recipient of the award, which is presented to a member of the Steelers' organization who best exemplifies the spirit of cooperation with the media, established in honor of Steelers' founder, Arthur J. Rooney, Sr.
"I wanted to be genuine and tell all of you guys, who I have been dealing with for a long time, that I did apologize for not being the most cooperative in the world," said Roethlisberger. "Anyway I think this is an awesome award. I appreciate it so much. Anything named after 'The Chief' or the Rooney family is an honor. So it is an honor.
"You guys know me. Any award I get I try to direct a lot of the attention to my teammates. I am not sure if I can direct it to my teammates, but I would if I could."
Roethlisberger, who is the first quarterback to win the award, said he has a greater understanding of the job the media has to do.
"I see you guys every day," said Roethlisberger. "It's easy to get frustrated with you guys as it is for you guys to get with us. Not every article, story or news report is always positive. So it's easy to get negative and get down on someone. But that's not what this is about. We understand that you guys have a job as we do. And it's probably just as grueling and as hard as sometimes we are out there. So we appreciate and understand the hard work and time you guys put in."
Roethlisberger, who was suspended four games by the NFL at the start of the season, made an effort to make changes in his life and his dealings with the media were one of those things.
"I said I need to be more cooperative with people, be a better person," said Roethlisberger. "It's just a change I wanted to make in my life and it's towards you guys as well."