Kovacevic: Pouncey pact fine, but his QB?
The six-year, $48 million extension Maurkice Pouncey signed Thursday might well represent the biggest move the Steelers make all summer. That's terrific and troubling.
Don't misunderstand. I like the contract.
Provided the front office did due diligence on Pouncey's right knee that was carved up after eight snaps last season, and given that Pouncey was a full participant in all three weeks of the organized team activities that wrapped up Thursday, there's no good reason to think he won't again be one of the NFL's finest centers. He's been that in the past, and he's only 24.
If anything, the Steelers would have paid far more by waiting to see a healthy 2014, then risking losing him through free agency.
But hey, let's check off the primary concerns, anyway:
• He can't stay on the field.
Quickly, without looking it up, how many games would you say Pouncey missed in his first three seasons?
Try four. Out of 52.
Part of the reason his absences stand out is that he's missed playoff games. As a rookie in 2010, he was out of the AFC championship game after one quarter with an ankle injury, then was held out of the Super Bowl. In 2011, he was out of the AFC wild card game for a recurrence of that ankle injury.
But that ankle never flared again. The only game missed in 2012 was to a minor knee sprain. And there's nothing to be analyzed about missing all of 2013 beyond David DeCastro rolling up on the back of his knee on a terribly ill-advised try at a cut block. DeCastro is 6-foot-5, 320 pounds. If he'd rolled up on Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster or Dermontti Dawson, they'd have been carted off, too.
“There are no problems,” Pouncey said Thursday. “I'm completely fine.”
• He's a bad seed.
Pouncey's done dumb things, no question, from hawking a rap record on Twitter minutes after the Super Bowl loss, to ripping the tweeps who criticized him for it — “I'm rich, play for the steelers and have a awesome life!! Are u mad loser” was the literary jewel in the collection — to that free-Aaron-Hernandez caps he was caught wearing at a Miami nightclub.
Idiotic and indefensible, all of it.
At the same time, the next meaningful complaint I hear from inside the Steelers will be the first.
“There have been things over the years, and I think the media's made more of those than what's there,” Ramon Foster was saying coming off the field Thursday. “No one sees the Maurkice we do, the way he treats guys, the way he has us all over to his house, the way he teaches the rookies. He's our leader, but he's also a real friend.”
Ben Roethlisberger sounded a similar note: “Maurkice is a friend, first and foremost. We've hung out together. We go to Penguins games, Pitt basketball games. … I can't tell you how I feel about him as a friend and as a teammate. He's the best there is.”
If that isn't enough, maybe it would have meant more to see Pouncey at his emotional news conference Thursday, one in which he shed a tear while saying, “I'm just glad to be a Pittsburgh Steeler, you guys,” then leaned down to embrace Dan Rooney once it was done.
“True love,” Pouncey called the relationship.
I'm thinking that's behavior they'll tolerate.
• Is that it for extensions?
Here's the one worry I'll share.
I'm fine with Jason Worilds playing for $9.75 million through his transition tag. Better that than committing multiple years and eight figures for a great half-season. If he delivers a sequel, talk then.
But the more that time passes this summer, the more apparent it becomes that the Steelers will allow Roethlisberger to play through the penultimate year on his contract before broaching an extension. And I'll repeat: That will be a mistake.
Roethlisberger is only 32, and he remains vital beyond words in the short and long terms. There's plenty to gain by having him enter 2014 with the same sense of relief Pouncey's showing and comparatively little to lose.
Really, what do Art Rooney, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin hope to achieve here?
What more do they want to see from Roethlisberger after he embraced an against-his-will coordinator change, after he was hugely responsible for salvaging their 2013 season from disastrous depths and after he's now kept his mouth shut about this offseason passing without any real replacement for Emmanuel Sanders?
Is this some game?
I asked Ben his view on an extension, and, to his credit, he kept on course.
“I can only control what I control,” he said. “I'm here to play football. If there's something important that happens, then I'll let my agents tell me. But other than that, I just have to play the game.”
The one on the field, he meant.