After losing Maurkice Pouncey
(right) to an ACL injury in Week 1, the Steelers
stumbled to an 8-8 finish in 2013. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
The Pittsburgh Steelers have long been an organization that's built around its on-field leadership, and on Thursday the team locked up one of those leaders, signing center Maurkice Pouncey to a five-year, $44 million deal, as first reported by Pro Football Talk.
Pouncey was the team's first-round pick in the 2010 draft and has been one of the more consistent players, not only on the offensive line, but also on the entire squad.
MORE COVERAGE: Offseason Report Cards | NFL Power Rankings | 2015 NFL Mock Draft
The new deal makes Pouncey the highest-paid center in the league. When the Cleveland Browns signed Alex Mack to a five-year, $42 million contract earlier this offseason, many thought it would complicate the Steelers' negotiations with Pouncey. But Pittsburgh always finds a way to keep the players the organization believes are most important to long-term success, and Pouncey is certainly one of those pieces.
The upcoming season would have been the final year of Pouncey's rookie contract; he was scheduled to make just a little over $3.8 million.
Pouncey missed just three games over his first three years as a pro, but he tore his ACL in the 2013 season-opener against the Titans
and was lost for the year. The recovery from that injury has gone smoothly, and Pouncey hasn't missed a day of OTAs so far this spring. His return to full health and the impact of his absence on the Steelers' 8-8 campaign last season may have ultimately convinced the team that the investment was worthwhile.