The Pittsburgh Steelers made a move on Thursday that would keep center Maurkice Pouncey around for the next five years after his rookie deal expires this season. As I pointed out in an earlier post, Steeler Nation is not a united front when it comes to feeling good about this latest contract negotiation.
While most point out that Pouncey is overrated, and therefore overpaid in his latest contract, that’s not exactly a black and white picture. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the flash and trash of a contract’s length and dollar figure. Sure, if Pouncey plays all six seasons and meets all of his bonuses he could make off with $44 million – thus making him the highest paid center in the game thus far. However, Pouncey’s contract is riddled with non-guarantees in the form of roster bonuses. It’s a virtual security blanket for the Steelers to ensure the screw is twisted as little as possible if Pouncey proves that he cannot play at a high level after his ACL tear from 2013 (or if he decides to go on some sort of crusade to break his buddy Hernandez out of jail). He’s only guaranteed 29% of his total contract number – almost unheard of when dealing with ‘the best.’
So those that think the Steelers are wasting their dough – that’s not quite true to a certain extent. Over The Cap has done (as usual) a pretty great breakdown of Pouncey’s new deal and compares it to Alex Mack’s and even Ryan Kalil’s.
Still, Pouncey is costing a lot of money for 2014 and 2015 on a knee that has yet to see real action after a season ending ACL tear. You have to admit it’s a risk, and it’s slightly irritating that they would sign him now rather than wait and see. Ok, it’s very irritating – but not because of the money alone or because Pouncey is coming off of a major injury, or that Pouncey has been a jagoff numerous times over his career when he’s supposed to be a ‘leader’ in the locker room. The irritation really stems from somewhere else.
Why in Myron Cope’s name are the Steelers signing Pouncey over Ben Roethlisberger? And when will they sign their two-time Super Bowl winning future HOF quarterback to a deal that will have him retire only ever wearing a Steelers uniform?
Pouncey’s contract does take away potential funds from the Steelers having funds available to sign a contract extension with Big Ben. Pouncey is an $8, $9, and then $10 million cap hit from 2015-2017. Those are large numbers to have to squeeze in with other players who are already on the roster and getting big dollars from their contracts – like Antonio Brown. In order to fit Roethlisberger a year from now in a big extension will leave the Steelers in the same old game they just got out of – restructure, release, restructure, release. Maybe.
He’s the best center! – Skeptical on this one. Three Pro-Bowls is kind of impressive, but honestly the Steelers have done well when Wallace started to fill the center role. He’s also rated outside of the top ten on Pro Football Focus. There’s some truth to his overrated nature.
He would have been too expensive next year! - Highly unlikely. Looking at the finer points of Pouncey’s deal, it would have looked very similar then as it does now regardless of having another Pro Bowl season. He was going to get more overall money than Mack. Plain and simple. And, if Pouncey even had an ounce of genuineness in his press conference on Thursday afternoon, staying with the Steelers was a dream come true – even if it came with less guaranteed money by the looks of it.
He’s a leader for the locker room! – While he may be a ‘motivator’ in the locker room, he certainly does not lead by example. His infamous post-Super Bowl Tweet about having a rap CD and then taking it to loyal Steeler fans who criticized him for doing something like that minutes after a Super Bowl loss put into question his maturity. That was further put into question when he and his twin brother wore “Free Hernandez” hats after soon to be discovered three-time murderer Aaron Hernandez was arrested. Not exactly a poster child for ‘leader.’
The only thing that is keeping this deal from being a huge disaster is the safeties placed within the contract – although in my mind he’s the next Jason Kendall. But, what is making this an utterly irritating deal is the fact that they have continually passed on making sure Big Ben is set to retire as a Steeler. They kept telling long time Steeler and anchor on the offensive line, Alan Faneca, to wait, a lovely stall tactic that eventually had Faneca out and onto the Jets. Do moves like the Pouncey deal continually tip the hand of Rooney and where Ben really sits on the totem pole? Hard to speculate, but I can tell you that that is where most of the frustrations lie within the Pouncey deal. Not the money. Not the position. It’s about Pouncey and Ben. Period.