Maurkice Pouncey will be returning to the Steelers after suffering a blown out knee in the 1st game of the 2013 season. There are questions surrounding Pouncey’s health – both in this particular return and throughout his pro career. How much back to form will he be? No one really knows right now and that’s a big unsettling.
When Pouncey went down, Fernando Velasco became his replacement for the rest of the season until the final four games when Velasco tore his Achilles. Cody Wallace filled in for the final four games. During the second half of the season, the Steelers saw a resurgence in the offensive line and found themselves at 6-2 during that stretch and one missed field goal from Kansas City away from making an improbable run at the playoffs. Velasco and Wallace both were partly responsible for that resurgence. Wallce was re-signed by the Steelers already this offseason, but Velasco is still sitting at home waiting for that phone to ring.
There are three reasons why Velasco is an important signing for the Steelers. 1) He stepped up and played well most of the season where he only got better each game helping LeVeon Bell almost reach the 1,000 yard rushing mark for the rookie. 2) We have no idea how good or bad Pouncey will be after coming back from a pretty severe injury. If Pouncey stinks, then it’s best to have good depth at the center position. Velasco is that good depth. 3) This offensive line has yet to have a season where a bajillion linemen don’t get injured over the course of 16 games. If Pouncey gets injured again (which is very possible), then the Steelers will again need that good depth.
So while there is the argument out there that Pouncey is important to consider when looking at contract extensions, getting Velasco in is even more important. The reality of the situation is that Pouncey has become even more expensive now that Alex Mack of the Cleveland Browns just became the highest paid center in the league.
Much like signing Keisel, the Steelers will probably have to wait and sign Velasco following June 1st.