The Pittsburgh Steelers made center Maurkice Pouncey the highest-paid man at his position today with a contract extension for five more years valued at $44 million dollars. They also gave him a signing bonus greater than what was given Colin Kaepernick last week. While this signing will be welcomed by many across the Steeler Nation, I can’t say I’m overly thrilled by it.
As with any football player, there are risks. But the risks surrounding Pouncey are too many for me to give my blessing on this deal.
For starters, Pouncey is coming off a season in which he tore an ACL in the team’s opener. Despite starting all 16 games in his rookie campaign, he missed Super Bowl XLV with a leg injury. Injuries of differing severity have been an issue for him since being drafted in 2010.
I could try and tell you that his association with Aaron Hernandez doesn’t matter here but I that wouldn’t be fair. Anytime you wear a ‘Free Hernandez’ hat days after your buddy is arrested for murder shows the level of maturity we are dealing with here. Be that as it is, his off-field situation really has nothing to do with why I don’t like this move.
Since coming aboard the Steelers have ranked 11th, 14th and 26th in the NFL in rushing. Obviously using last year’s numbers wouldn’t be fair because he missed the entire season. While I could accept the argument that 11th and 14th are respectable, the pass protection numbers are the real indicators of why I don’t like this deal.
In 2010, the offensive line gave up 43 sacks and 78 quarterback hits. In 2011, it was 42 sacks and 77 QB hits while in his last full season in 2012, the O-line surrendered 37 sacks and 67 QB hits.
Now, much of the blame for the high sack and hit totals was laid at the feet of the outside protectors but often the pressure in the ‘A’ gaps was just as bad and that’s the area Pouncey is typically responsible for depending on the blocking scheme and adjustments. The guards are obviously party to this too so I won’t lay it all on Pouncey.
While no one would debate Pouncey’s athleticism versus his replacements Fernando Velasco and Cody Wallace last year, the fact is, they performed better. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked less than ten times over the team’s final eight games and the pressure from up the middle was reduced.
Ironically, Velasco graded out better than Pouncey did in the 2012 season by Pro Football Focus when he anchored the Tennessee offensive line. I take PFF with a grain of salt but they weren’t the only ones down on Pouncey. Search ‘overrated NFL Players’ and Pouncey is almost always on the list.
I’m of the mind that you just don’t pay a center this kind of money. Perhaps that’s old school thinking but when you have consistently paid your defense and let the offense slide, keeping the center happy isn’t the highest priority on my list. The Steelers are gambling that Pouncey will stay healthy and will stay out of trouble for the next five years.
That’s a gamble I’m not willing to take. The Steelers know the value of having an anchor at the center position simply from looking at their history but those were different times. This type of money was better spent on other areas of the offense.
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.