It's looking more and more like first-round selection Maurkice Pouncey, who played center at the University of Florida, will become the first Pittsburgh Steelers rookie since tight end Heath Miller in 2005 to crack the starting lineup.
Typically, Steelers rookies serve one "red shirt" year, so to speak, and come in only to spell veteran players.
But Pouncey is currently getting first-team reps after a strong showing in the team's first preseason contest this past Saturday. The offense sputtered during their first two series, managing only 16 yards on 12 plays. However, the unit visibly improved with Pouncey in the lineup.
The highlight of Pouncey's performance was a true hustle play on an Issac Redman run. The rookie moved downfield with impressive speed and athleticism for a man his size, blocking linebackers and safeties, and paving the way for a 31-yard gain.
Pouncey's reps on Monday were mostly at center, suggesting that Justin Hartwig -- who might very well be a salary cap casualty if, you know, there was a cap this year -- could be out of a job. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger even stopped the rookie after camp to practice the center-quarterback exchange.
So the competition seems to have shifted to Justin Hartwig (center) versus Trai Essex (right guard), as Tomlin and company will likely start Pouncey at whichever spot appears weaker.