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.
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.