On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Steelers took a big step toward fortifying their offensive line for the foreseeable future. The team reportedly signed star center Maurkice Pouncey to a five-year contract extension, according to Pro Football Talk:
Maurkice Pouncey agrees to terms on a new five-year extension with the Steelers. Details coming at PFT.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) June 12, 2014
Per PFT's Mike Florio, the deal is worth upwards of $44 million, which includes a signing bonus of $13 million. The five-year extension will be added to the one year remaining on Pouncey's rookie contract, which means he will be a Steeler through the 2019 season if he sees the end of the deal.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com provided more insight into Pouncey's contract:
#Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey’s cap number for 2014 is $5M, I’m told. There was already $1.4M on the books, new contract adds $3.6M.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 12, 2014
Pouncey, who was the No. 18 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, has already been named to the Pro Bowl three times in four NFL seasons. He even received a prestigious All-Pro nod in 2011. Even so, there are some questions surrounding his status after a torn ACL and MCL that he suffered in the first game of the 2013 campaign—an injury that cost him the rest of the season.
Everything appears to be coming up roses for Pouncey on the recovery front, however. According to Scott Brown of ESPN.com, Pouncey returned to the practice field in May and felt as good as ever.
Is this a smart extension on the Steelers' part?
"No problems at all," Pouncey said, per Brown. "I was able to block guys and finish on some plays. It was pretty awesome."
That is obviously a great sign for his availability entering the 2014 season, although the Steelers are likely to proceed with caution now that they have so much money invested in him.
Despite the obvious risk involved with signing a player to an extension after a major knee injury, Rapoport believes the Steelers made the right move:
Maurkice Pouncey had a year left on his deal. He was coming off a knee injury. And the Steelers reward him with a huge deal. They need him— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 12, 2014
It is likely that most of Pouncey's teammates feel the same way; there is obviously a great deal of respect for him. Specifically, star wide receiver Antonio Brown heaped praise upon Pouncey in a recent interview with Teresa Varley of Steelers.com:
He is the ultimate leader. He is a great guy. Any time he is out there on the field he is the general. He controls the snap. His intensity and leadership provides a spark for the team, not just the offensive line, but the quarterback, receivers and running backs. He sparks the whole team.
Even Pouncey's former teammates are happy for him. Former Steelers and current Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer congratulated him on the extension:
Pouncey has only been in the league for four years, but he already appears to be a universally liked and respected player in the Steelers locker room.
Most would probably argue that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the main leader of the offense; however, Pouncey is in the conversation as well, especially based upon Brown's aforementioned comments.
The success of this contract extension is incumbent upon Pouncey's health. If he returns and plays like he did prior to the injury, then this is an obvious win for the Steelers. If he simply isn't the same, though, this contract could be a major albatross.
Based on how talented Pouncey is and how integral he is to the Steelers' success moving forward, it was a risk worth taking.
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