Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey records and watches all of the Pittsburgh Steelers' games to study their All-Pro center, and visits with him on the phone every day, trading tips and talking trash.
Sometimes they remark on their similar styles of play, which is really no surprise. After all, they're identical twins.
Maurkice Pouncey was born a few minutes after Mike but made it to the NFL first, turning pro in 2010. Mike was drafted by the Dolphins last year and is now bidding to overtake his brother as the best center in the family — and the league.
"I just try to trademark his game," Mike said. "He set the bar for our family in the NFL. I'm just trying to be the player he is."
By all accounts Mike is closing the gap, even though this is only his third season as a center. Maurkice said his brother has turned the sibling rivalry into a close contest.
"It's awesome to watch," Maurkice said. "I need to pick it up, man. He has been balling."
The Dolphins agree. First-year coach Joe Philbin raved after the season opener about the 6-foot-5, 303-pound Mike Pouncey's agility and ability to block linebackers by reaching the so-called second level.
"He did some things that I haven't seen a linemen do in this league in a long time," Philbin said.
As Pouncey approaches the halfway point in his second NFL season, the Dolphins are increasingly confident he'll anchor their offensive line for years to come.
The team's blocking has improved considerably this season, which is one reason Miami (3-3) takes a two-game winning streak into Sunday's road game against the New York Jets (3-4). Sacks allowed are down dramatically, while running back Reggie Bush is on pace for his second successive 1,000-yard season.
In both cases, teammates and coaches give Pouncey credit as a leader of the line.
"He's playing very well," Philbin said. "He does an excellent job of getting the group going. I think football is important to him. He brings a lot of passion and juice to the locker room, to the practice field and to the game."
Like Maurkice, Mike Pouncey was a first-round draft choice — and taken three picks earlier than his brother at No. 15 overall. Mike won the starting job as a rookie in training camp, and quickly showed he had finally found a home at center.
Mike played running back and tight end in Little League, then was a left tackle in high school on state championship teams at Lakeland, Fla. At the University of Florida he started six games at defensive tackle as a freshman, then switched to right guard for two seasons, and as a senior he replaced his brother at center.
Despite his success, he misses carrying the ball the way he did as a kid.
"I feel like I should be playing another position," he said with a grin. "I'm very athletic, and when I do get to the second level, I do feel like I dominate. I'm good on my feet."
He's good in the locker room, too, where his jovial personality is a plus during the long grind of an NFL season.
"He's always keeping the atmosphere just really fun and light, and he's always joking around," Bush said. "He's a guy that works hard and he's always challenging the rest of the team with his style of play. It's good to have a guy like that, especially at center."
While Pouncey shares a bond with teammates, especially the other linemen, he remains closest to his brother. Since childhood they've been best friends and each other's biggest fan.
"When we get out of practice, we always call each other, and the first thing we ask each other is how was our day and how'd you do in practice," Mike said. "I watch him on film and I'm like, 'Man, do you ever miss a block?' He says the same thing. We want each other to be the best."
Maurkice has made the Pro Bowl each of his first two seasons and was chosen All-Pro last year. He figures that with Mike's improvement, there's room for two Pounceys on this year's AFC Pro Bowl roster.
"That's the plan, man," Maurkice said. "He's coming up pretty fast."
AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.
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