By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Maurkice Pouncey didn’t look any worse for wear prior to practice Thursday afternoon, but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-year center still wasn’t feeling up to par after suffering through about a week-long illness.
Still, after losing 12 pounds in just a couple days due to what was diagnosed as a stomach virus, Pouncey expected to return to the starting lineup against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field. Pouncey was too sick to continue at Kansas City this past Sunday after playing into the second quarter.
“You never look sick, but I was sick, though,” Pouncey said. “I lost 12 pounds from after the game until today. I’m starting to gain it back now.
“I gained two pounds back. I woke up feeling sick on game day, (and) I (vomited) everything from the past month I think. It’s been over a couple days, but today’s been the first day that I feel pretty good.”
Generally, a player wants to return to a game after he gets hurt, but the coaching staff tends to err on the side of caution and keeps him out. In this case, cooler heads prevailed as well, and Pouncey did not return after an early second-quarter series and stayed in the locker room for the second half.
“It got to the point where we all decided that I really couldn’t function right,” Pouncey said. “I slept all the way to game time, but I wanted to play. We needed that win, big-time, and we got it. So, it definitely was a good feeling that we pulled it out. But I really wanted to play.”
Fellow Steelers offensive lineman and Florida Gators’ teammate Marcus Gilbert is Pouncey’s neighbor in town and his roommate on the road, so he is well aware about what the center went through in the past week.
“Maurkice wanted to play, but they wouldn’t let him come back out,” Gilbert said. “If he could’ve played, I know he would have played, but he just couldn’t go any more. He was too sick. I guess it could’ve gotten more serious, so he did what was best for the team and himself and stayed away until today.
“He was sick as a dog, throwing up in the locker room, laying on the bathroom floor the whole halftime. … I’m glad I didn’t get it. I slept real good the night before the game, but he was up all night. He was coughing and sneezing and felt like crap. He felt bad a couple days before that, too, so I guess it was catching up to him by game time. And he only played a couple series.”
Pouncey’s playing status certainly didn’t appear to affect his feistiness prior to his exit. The irascible Pouncey still got into some scuffles, pulled guys out of fights and basically pushed Kelly Gregg around. But this is nothing new, since Gregg and Pouncey battled three times when the Chiefs tackle played for the Baltimore Ravens.
“I just wanted to play, man, but in-between the plays I was dry-heaving and trying to throw up,” Pouncey said. “When I was on the sideline, they kept trying to stick an IV in me to keep me hydrated. But my stomach was cramping too bad to go back out there on the field. They said I had a stomach virus.
“They have no idea where I picked it up, but I had it. All I did was take fluids and eat bread and yogurt. Those have been my key things. I’m going to do some individual things out there, but I don’t think they’re going to let me go through a full practice. (But) I’m definitely going to play this week.”
Pouncey is hopeful he can gain back some weight over the next few days, but he’ll likely have to accomplish that goal basically on a diet of bread, crackers, yogurt and water. The main thing, Pouncey said, is for me to stay hydrated.
“Fluids, that’s probably the most stuff that I lost,” Pouncey said. “(But) this is my first day back even seeing anybody. So, I don’t know how I’ll feel out there. With how much I weigh now, maybe they’ll put me at wide receiver.”
For the record, Pouncey is listed on the Steelers roster at 6-foot-4, 304 pounds, but when asked if he was down to about 290 he responded that he was way less than that. And he looked thinner, so he might have lost even more than 12 pounds, but good news for the Steelers is that he’s on his way back.