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Star center Pouncey is back with Steelers, but cut-block play is not

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey snaps to Ben Rothlisberger during organized team activities Wednesday, May 28, 2014, on the South Side.

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By Alan Robinson
Tuesday, June 3, 2014, 9:48 p.m.
 

The Steelers are working on their outside zone-blocking package now that center Maurkice Pouncey is healthy and practicing again, but there's one play missing,

It's the cut block guard David DeCastro tried to execute on Titans nose tackle Sammie Lee Hill early in the season opener last year, only to accidentally take out Pouncey — for the whole season, no less.

“That was the last time we ran that play,” Pouncey said Tuesday as the Steelers began the second of their four weeks of offseason practices. “We're working on it now (the outside zone blocking), but we'll take away the cut blocking.

“We're not doing that anymore.”

Having Pouncey back after he missed all but eight plays of the season with a torn ACL and MCL means an offensive line that got off a shaky start but improved gradually as the Steelers finished 6-2 is back to full strength.

But this is an important time for Pouncey for another reason: His contract is up after this season, and the Steelers traditionally do not negotiate once a season starts.

So if the three-time Pro Bowl center is to get a new deal, it likely will come in the next three months.

The bar is set high, too, for the Steelers — the Browns recently matched the Jaguars' $42 million, five-year offer to Alex Mack, making him the NFL's highest-paid center.

“If Mr. Rooney blesses me, it will be a dream come true,” said Pouncey, who will make $1,288,375 this season, with bonuses pushing his salary cap hit to $5,514,000. “I want to stay in Pittsburgh my whole career, and it's on them, man.

“I'm here every day working, there's loyalty with them and I think they'll do the right thing. But it's not even on my mind right now.”

The 2013 season was difficult for Pouncey for another reason: his brother Mike's involvement in the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin harassment scandal controversy in Miami. Unflattering email exchanges between Mike Pouncey and Incognito were part of the Ted Wells' report to the NFL.

The NFL ordered Pouncey, the Dolphins' center, to undergo a mental health evaluation, but he said last week that he hadn't taken one and didn't think he needed one.

“I'm really, really close with him, and for them to keep torturing him like that, man, it's terrible for him,” Maurkice Pouncey said. “But he's strong and motivated about things.

“He's kind of just not talking to them right now, but with time, everything passes over, and that's what we're planning on.”

Pouncey is disappointed his brother no longer can be himself, especially when talking with reporters.

“He's outgoing like me, and it's (tough) he has to tone it down, but they kind of take stuff and run with it,” he said. “I wish it could be a lot different for him, because I know he's stressed out about it.”

Still, Pouncey said it won't be difficult for him to sit through the NFL's upcoming, post-Incognito presentation to the Steelers' players about locker room decorum.

“Whatever steps they (the NFL) want to take, we're going to do it and just show people we (NFL players) are good guys, and all that other stuff is behind us,” Pouncey said.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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