Brotherly Love; Pounceys ready for unique chapter in rivalry
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike Pouncey beat Maurkice Pouncey into the world by a full 60 seconds in the summer of 1989, his first victory in a sibling rivalry that will reach a unique milestone on Sunday when the Miami Dolphins host the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For the first time in their lives, the Pounceys will be in uniform in the same stadium, just not on the same sideline. When Mike runs out of the tunnel as the starting center for the Dolphins, he’ll see his twin brother in Maurkice’s familiar No. 53 in Pittsburgh’s black-and-gold across the way.
It’s a moment they always believed would come. That confidence, however, won’t make it any less weird.
“We’re best friends, but I haven’t given him any insight, though,” Maurkice said. “He’s got to go watch film like our guys got to go watch film.”
What they’ll see are two physical marvels who in many ways are mirror images in more ways than one. Technically Mike is an inch taller (6-foot-5 to Maurkice’s 6-4) while Maurkice’s listed weight of 304 pounds gives him 5 pounds on Mike. In essence, though, their identicalness stretches beyond DNA.
“We’re the same,” Maurkice said.
It’s been that way since they were infants and their mother Lisa kept their hospital bracelets on until she figured out how to tell them apart. They began playing together when they were 6, got their first of many tattoos at 13, and worked side by side — Maurkice at center, Mike at guard — while helping Florida to a BCS title.
Then their paths diverged. Maurkice left a year early for the NFL, and the Steelers made him the 31st pick in the 2010 draft. The transition wasn’t easy, particularly for Mike.
“It was the first time we were ever separated,” Mike said. “I probably took it a lot harder than he did because he was making money. I was still in college.”
Though not for long. The Dolphins grabbed Mike with the 15th overall pick in the 2011 draft — 16 spots ahead of where the Steelers picked his brother — something Maurkice says Mike “still won’t let go.”
“It’s competition so much, with the Pro Bowls, with everything we do,” Maurkice said.
Technically Maurkice is ahead on that list, getting four invites to the NFL’s annual All-Star game to three for his brother. It’s a number that might be higher if not for a shredded knee that cost Maurkice all but eight snaps of the 2013 season, and a bum ankle that kept him out for all of 2015. The ability to stay healthy may be the one thing Maurkice envies about Mike, who missed Miami’s first four games this fall with a fractured hip, but has avoided catastrophe.
“I tell him all the time he’s the luckiest dude,” Maurkice said with a laugh. “This guy had a fractured hip and walks around like nothing happened to him. I sit on my couch with my foot in the air for five, six months.”
The two are nearly inseparable during the offseason, hopping between Miami and Pittsburgh for workouts while making the rest of the guys do a double take.
“All the guys get him confused,” Mike said. “When he comes in, they think he’s me when I’m not around. And the same when I go up there. Their team is very welcoming of me, coming into their facilities, working out and everything.”
Though the urge to play together remains very real, the business of the NFL (and common sense) has kept them apart during the season. Both are the linchpins of their respective offensive lines. When Maurkice signed a lengthy extension with the Steelers in 2014, he lobbied the Pittsburgh front office to make a run at Mike the following spring.
Then the Dolphins offered Mike a lucrative extension of his own and, well, the family reunion would have to wait.
“Somebody comes to you and says, ‘I’m going to give you $52 million, you going to go to the Steelers (instead)?,” Maurkice said with a laugh. “He jumped on it as quick as anybody.”
They remain in constant communication during the season, offering support and advice, though rarely congratulations.
“He never calls me and tells me he had a great block,” Maurkice said. “He tells me ‘You missed that guy on that play. I’m like, ‘You’re depressing.”
Maurkice can take solace in this: his team is currently 4-1 and looks like a legitimate threat to head back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2010. The Dolphins are 1-4 and seem to be headed for an eighth straight non-winning season.
On Sunday, they’ll share a bro hug during warmups and perhaps scan the stands for the 80 or so friends and family coming in for the game, and maybe offer a “thanks” for pushing each other to remarkable heights.
“He’s been a real help for my career, how it’s gone,” Mike said. “And I’m sure he’d say the same for me.”
NOTES: Steelers WR Markus Wheaton (shoulder), T Marcus Gilbert (ankle), DE Cam Heyward (hamstring) and LB Ryan Shazier (knee) are out. WR Sammie Coates (hand) is questionable. ... Miami TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) is out. RB Arian Foster (hamstring), S Reshad Jones (groin), G Anthony Steen (ankle) and T Laremy Tunsil (ankle) are questionable.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL