One of the more highly regarded centers in the National Football League is Alex Mack of the Cleveland Browns.
He signed a restricted free agent offer sheet with Jacksonville yesterday worth $42 million over five years.
The Browns quickly matched the offer.
Why does this affect the Pittsburgh Steelers? Because they have a pretty good center in Maurkice Pouncey who is entering the final year of his original contract.
The question is… Is Maurkice Pouncey worth the type of money that Mack will be getting?
I honestly don’t think so and I’ll be very curious to see how the Steelers approach this situation. I’m not saying that Pouncey isn’t a very good center, his multiple Pro Bowls speak for themselves, but is a center worth that kind of money?
Last season after Pouncey went down in the first game of the season, the Steelers went out and picked up free agent Fernando Velasco. Despite the fact that Pouncey and Velasco are very different types of middle-men, no one can argue with the improvement in both pass protection and to a lesser extent, the running game as the season wore on.
After being harassed at will through the first half of the season, QB Ben Roethlisberger was sacked less than 10 times in the second half of the year. We could point to the improvement of David DeCastro, Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert for that but dismissing the effort of Velasco and then Cody Wallace wouldn’t be fair.
Let’s be real here; Pouncey is an excellent, athletic center who has been good, but not great in my opinion. I often wonder if his strong rookie campaign wasn’t the best he has played.
The moment he went down last year was the moment the zone blocking scheme deteriorated. But just how much is Pouncey worth?
I see there being no justification for paying him the type of money Mack will get. Had the offensive line crumbled and had Ben Roethlisberger been sacked at will all season I’d be able to understand the camp that says “pay him what he wants.” This offensive line did just the opposite however and improved with two different centers.
Considering the salary situation of Roethlisberger and the tightness of the cap I just can’t see paying Pouncey. Perhaps a trade is possible but either way I can see the Steelers and Pouncey parting ways in a year if not sooner.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard weekly on Trib-Live Radio talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.