- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - At first glance, it didn’t look like much, center Maurkice Pouncey taking his spot in the middle of the offensive line and snapping the ball to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

But for Pouncey, more than eight months removed from tearing both the ACL and MCL in his right knee during the Steelers’ season opener last September, it was a big step.

Pouncey joined his teammates Tuesday for the first time after knee surgery cost him all but eight snaps of the 2013 season.

“Yeah, it was my first time doing live action,” Pouncey said. “I didn’t have any restrictions. It was pretty neat to dry-block some guys and finish on some plays, it was pretty awesome. So, it was great. There were no problems at all.”

The three-time Pro Bowler was expected to anchor a young offensive line last season. It never happened.

Minutes into the opener against Tennessee, Steelers guard David DeCastro dived into the back of Pouncey’s legs, derailing the direction of an entire season.

“I’ve never been hit like that,” Pouncey said, quickly adding that he hoped to leave all the injury talk in the past.

“I think it was more mental than anything, getting my confidence back. There’s only so much you can do to be ready, but then you have to go out and do it.”

Maybe it’s why Pouncey was even more fired up than usual as he took the field with his teammates. The sight of Pouncey’s No. 53 jersey in front of him was certainly a welcome one for Roethlisberger.

“It was great,” Roethlisberger said. “As a friend and a guy who has worked so hard to get back out here, it was fun to see him back in the pads.”

Second-year running back Le’Veon Bell missed the opening three games last season due to a foot injury during training camp, so the opening OTA practice was his first time running behind a Pouncey block.

Maurkice is one of the more athletic centers in this league,” Bell said. “He can run a little better, so we’re going to try to get back to where we started last year, with more of an outside, zone running game. It’s something he can do, and he’s also a leader for the front guys. So we’re looking forward to having him back.”

Bell and bruising back LeGarrette Blount, acquired as a free agent during the offseason, are counting on Pouncey and an offensive line now under the guidance of former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak.

“We’ve been building since last year,” Pouncey said.

“We finished the season pretty well, and a lot of the guys played great. Now, to get a new coach, a Hall of Fame player like that, it’s awesome. It’s going to be great for the group.”

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