PITTSBURGH -- After finishing with a season-low 21 rushing yards in their loss to Washington, the Steelers will have another major piece of the running game available Sunday night against the Buffalo Bills.
Center Maurkice Pouncey was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday after missing two games, the team announced.
"Pouncey is Pouncey," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We've been together for a long time. He's been a comfort blanket. He is, my opinion, the best in the business. He is a Hall of Fame center. Any time you've got that guy up there, not just physically in terms of what he can do and brings to the game but emotionally, mentally, he is that linchpin up front.
"I always say we go as they go up front, and he's the main guy up there. They will all feel more comfortable if Pouncey's back. I will feel more comfortable. He's our captain for a reason. He's the best of the business."
Pouncey was first placed on the list in the hours before the Steelers' Dec. 2 kickoff against the Baltimore Ravens, and he remained on the list through Monday's loss to Washington.
Without Pouncey, the Steelers had to lean on former practice squad center J.C. Hassenauer. Although there weren't any significant miscues with the snap, Roethlisberger's connection with Pouncey, his longtime center, is much stronger.
In the two games without Pouncey -- when the team was also missing starting running back James Conner -- Pittsburgh's run game struggled mightily. The Steelers averaged 2.6 yards per carry in the past two games, and their lack of physicality was evident. Without Pouncey, the offensive line couldn't get much push, and as a result, the running backs struggled to move the ball.
"If you can't get a yard in our game, you don't deserve to win," coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. "That's the nuts and bolts elements of football, the physicality element of football. We didn't meet that challenge, so we have some work to do in that area."