Familiar Rivals Will Meet Again Pouncey Battles Atkins for 13th Time as Pros

By Dulac, Gerry | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), December 30, 2018 | Go to article overview

Familiar Rivals Will Meet Again Pouncey Battles Atkins for 13th Time as Pros


Dulac, Gerry, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


When Maurkice Pouncey was a guard helping Lakeland High School to three consecutive Florida 5A state championships, he played several games against a defensive end from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., named Geno Atkins.

When Pouncey went to the University of Florida and was the starting center on the Gators' 2008 national championship team, he faced Atkins two more times when Atkins was Georgia's top defensive tackle.

Now, eight years after each was selected in the 2010 draft - Pouncey as the 18th overall selection of the Steelers, Atkins as a fourth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals - they will face each other for the 13th time as professionals when the two AFC North Division teams meet late Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.

It's not just a reunion of two former Florida linemen. It's a battle of seven-time Pro Bowlers who are among the best at their positions in the NFL.

"I always thought he was a top-three guy, but you can't really say top-three because there's always a few more guys," Pouncey said. "But he's one of the top guys in league you have to respect so much. I always said guys like Aaron Donald, [Ndamukong] Suh, him, Gerald McCoy, Fletcher Cox, those guys are like forces. You have to game plan for them in the sense they can make a lot of plays from their position."

Atkins has been one of the few bright spots in a Bengals defense that is just 22 points and 75 yards shy from allowing the most points and most yards (6,349 in 1995) in franchise history.

He was selected to his seventh Pro Bowl after registering a team-high 10 sacks, second among the league's defensive tackles, even though that number was built largely early in the season. Atkins had six sacks in the first five games, but has just four in the past 10 games.

What's more, three of those four sacks came in the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders. Of his 71 career sacks, seven have come against the Steelers. …

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