Ben Roethlisberger has been singing the praises of rookie center Maurkice Pouncey all season and on Wednesday, he was happy to say 'I told you so' as he talked about Pouncey being selected to the Pro Bowl.
"I am not surprised. I told you guys all along he is one of the best in the game," said Roethlisberger. "He is going to be the best. The sky is the limit for him. I am just happy and proud that everyone recognized it."
Pouncey is one of three Steelers who were voted in to the 2011 Pro Bowl, joining linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu.
"Everything stands out about him, he's physical, he's always downfield, he's always finishing," said Roethlisberger of the rookie first-round pick from Florida. "But I think what's most impressive about him is his smarts, the mental part of it. He's in here watching film. He should be hitting a wall right now but he's not. He's getting better every week."
Pouncey, who was voted in as a reserve, is the first Steelers rookie offensive lineman to make the Pro Bowl since offensive tackle Frank Varrichione was selected in 1956 and is the first Steelers rookie to make it since linebacker Kendrell Bell was selected in 2002.
He has been a steady force on the offensive line, starting every game this year and making the calls for the offensive line.
"After week one, or even in training camp, you could see that he was doing it," said Roethlisberger. "Preseason you're like, wow, this kid's going to be good. But who knows how long he can keep doing it. Halfway thru the year, wow, he's gotten better, I know he can do this but he's going to hit a wall at some point. Week 15, he hasn't hit a wall yet, this is amazing and he's still getting better.
"I think it speaks volumes for his preparation, for the time and effort he puts in not just for his body to be healthy and be focused and be ready, but the preparation for his mind – knowing the game plan, knowing the defenses. He's here on Tuesdays by himself going over film. For a rookie that's good."
Pouncey learned of his Pro Bowl selection when he received a phone call from Steelers President Art Rooney II. He said he was excited to get the news and a little surprised, but didn't dwell on it for long.
"It's a great honor to me," said Pouncey. "I am glad they selected me. But we have bigger things to worry about, we have Cleveland this week."
Harrison didn't get to enjoy his selection to the Pro Bowl with his teammates on Wednesday, missing practice with an illness. Harrison was voted in as a starter for the fourth consecutive year. Harrison leads the Steelers with 11 sacks through 15 games and six forced fumbles.
"I think it's an honor well-deserved for him," said fellow linebacker James Farrior. "I think he is one of the most dominant forces in football today as a defensive player. He is tough to get blocked. He is going to always have the numbers to compete with the rest of the guys around the league. It's great that he has been recognized."
Another thing that impresses Farrior about Harrison is the way he handled the controversy he has been handed this season, included being fined $125,000 by the NFL for hits.
"It says a lot about his character," said Farrior. "He doesn't focus on the negative. He is always trying to do his job. That is what it is all about, where he can go in and not let things distract him and still play at such a high level, it's amazing."
Polamalu is a six-time Pro Bowl selection, going as a starter for the fifth time this year.
"It's a tremendous honor, especially to be selected by your peers, fans and coaches," said Polamalu. "I think it's a pretty good process and it's quite an honor. It's great to have your peers select you because you play against them and they have respect for you, the coaches because they have to game plan against you and the fans because that is what this game is all about."
Polamalu, who was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week twice in December (Week 13 and 14), has made game-changing plays for the Steelers this season, but downplays his own big plays.
"Sometimes they fall in your lap, sometimes you work hard for them," said Polamalu. "This year they have been falling in my lap. But it takes a lot of parts to make plays happen. It takes pressure on the quarterback, coverage on the other parts. There are so many parts that go in to making plays. Sometimes the person who makes the plays has the easiest job."
His teammates will tell you otherwise, though, and argue that the humble Polamalu makes the plays happen with his work, not with just them falling in to his lap.
"If it was that, everybody would be doing the same thing," said safety Ryan Clark. "Clearly he is a special talent. What is underrated about him is the way he studies the game, the student of the game he is, the way he analyzes offense and is able to put himself in position to make those plays. He is fast and he can catch. The fact that he is such a hard worker is what puts him above everybody else and why he excels."
Clark said that it is fun to play alongside Polamalu, but can also be nerve-wracking. But overall, it's something he enjoys.
"Watching him is like watching a magic show every Sunday," said Clark. "I have good seats for the show."