Steelers Extend Heart And Soul

Maurkice Pouncey has agreed to a five-year contract extension that will keep the All-Pro center in Pittsburgh through the 2019 season.

For those who follow the plus/minus notations of amateur scouts working off of TVs for a website used by reporters who don't understand the game, the Maurkice Pouncey contract extension probably doesn't interest you.

For those who believe that a helmet plunged straight into a knee by a teammate makes one "injury prone," the Pouncey contract extension probably doesn't interest you.

And for those who judge a man off a couple of impulsive "tweets" after a lost Super Bowl and an overextension of loyalty to a troubled former teammate, the Pouncey contract extension probably doesn't interest you.

But for those who believe in locking up the 24-year-old heart and soul of the offensive line, and perhaps the most important team leader this side of Ben Roethlisberger, you were happy to learn that the Steelers signed Pouncey to a five-year extension for $44 million on Thursday.

The Steelers paid Pouncey a $13 million signing bonus and will have him through the 2019 season. The contract also saved the Steelers an estimated $500,000 in cap room this season.

Pouncey was brought into the South Side media room to field questions from reporters about the extension, and the loyalty and emotion of a player who's been a true leader and positive influence both in and out of the locker room spilled over into tears of appreciation and joy.

"There's true love here," Pouncey said in conclusion as tears rolled down his face.

Pouncey has been criticized in many quarters for the aforementioned reasons, but it's not just the Steelers' braintrust that believes in him.

"I'm happy," said Roethlisberger. "He's a leader on this team. To me he's the best center in the game. I am just so happy he's going to be around here. I don't have to worry about another center, hopefully, for the rest of my career."

Roethlisberger went on to provide specifics:

"He's incredibly athletic. He's very smart. But he puts the work in. He is here constantly, bugging the coaches to watch more film and talking about things. Just his work ethic is tremendous.

"As athletic as he is, you can pull him and do so many things with him. Like I said, he's so smart. He can talk. That group up front is a special group as it is, and he is kind of their glue that holds them all together."

Pouncey was the Steelers' No. 1 draft pick in 2010, and after the season was named to the first of three Pro Bowls. He was also the second-team AP All-Pro center that year, but was forced to miss the Super Bowl with an ankle injury that bothered him the following season.

Pouncey missed two games in 2011 with an ankle problem, and also missed the playoff game in Denver. However, he played well enough to be named the Associated Press' first-team All-Pro center.

In 2012, Pouncey made his third Pro Bowl and was again named second-team All-Pro after playing in all but one game.

Last year, of course, Pouncey had his ACL torn by a teammate's helmet during the first series of the opener and he missed the rest of the season. Pouncey said Thursday that "I'm totally fine," but also admitted that after the injury "I didn't think I was ever going to be able to walk again. The contract was the last thing [on my mind]. I think playing football was the first thing that came to my mind.

"God has been good to me. Words can't explain this. This is unbelievable what all is going through my head right now."

(For the complete transcript of the Pouncey press conference, click here.)


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