Steelers, Pouncey agree to $48 million, 6-year contract extension
Maurkice Pouncey has 48 million reasons to flash a big smile and one very good reason to become teary-eyed emotional.
Despite a serious right knee injury that limited Pouncey to only eight plays last season, the Steelers signed the fifth-year center to a $48 million, six-year contract Thursday.
That the Steelers would make such a commitment to a player who has yet to prove in game action that he is fully recovered — though Pouncey certainly seems to be — caused him to nearly break down.
“The loyalty they showed me with the new contract, it's true love here,” Pouncey said, tears visibly welling in his eyes.
A moment later, he hugged Steelers chairman Dan Rooney.
“A dream come true,” Pouncey said of a contract that ties him to the Steelers through the 2019 season. He could have become an unrestricted free agent next March.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's reaction?
“I probably don't have to worry about another center for the rest of my career,” he said.
Pouncey, the only center in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons, often is cited by teammates as the leader of an offensive line that includes two first-round picks and two second-round picks.
“To me, he's the best center in the game,” said Roethlisberger, who called Pouncey's work ethic “tremendous.”
It wasn't coincidence that, without Pouncey's blocking and guidance of the offensive line, the Steelers ran for only 1,383 yards last season — easily their fewest in a 16-game season.
“I couldn't be happier for him — or the team,” said right guard David DeCastro, whose cut block in the season opener last year caused Pouncey to tear the ACL and MCL in his right knee.
Pouncey, who turns 25 next month, said he is “totally fine” and is far ahead of his rehabilitation schedule. He practiced throughout the Steelers' three weeks of offseason workouts.
“I thought he could have played at the end of last year, that's how good he looked and how hard he worked,” Roethlisberger said.
Pouncey was entering the final season of the $17.96 million, five-year contract he signed as a first-round draft pick in 2010. But the Steelers gave him a deal that includes a guaranteed $13 million signing bonus and $7.25 million in roster bonuses.
Pouncey will make $1 million in base salary in 2014, down from the $1.288 million he was scheduled to earn, but will take home $14 million, including the signing bonus. He will make $5.5 million in salary and bonuses in 2015 and $7 million in salary and bonuses in 2016.
The deal eclipses the $42 million, five-year contract that Browns center Alex Mack recently signed.
“That was never on my mind,” Pouncey said of being the NFL's highest-paid center. “I never wanted to leave the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.