Steelers could see Maurkice Pouncey's price go way up


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The price for the Steelers to sign center Maurkice Pouncey to a new contract just took another twist, thanks to Alex Mack.

Mack is a free agent to whom the Cleveland Browns applied the transition tag, the only player besides Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds to get that designation in the NFL this year. Mack signed a five-year, $42 million offer sheet with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Browns decided to match it rather than let him go and receive nothing in return.

That makes Mack the highest-paid center in the NFL. Maurkice Pouncey can justify saying he should be the highest paid.

Mack, a first-round pick in 2009, has made two Pro Bowls. Pouncey, the Steelers' first-round pick in 2010, made Pro Bowls in his first three seasons in the NFL and might have made it four had he not been knocked out of the 2013 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the first series of the opening game.

Pouncey has one year left on his contract, traditionally the time in which the Steelers sign their good young players to extensions. He is scheduled to earn a salary of $1,288,375 this season and reportedly a roster bonus of nearly $3 million more.

The Steelers have not yet opened discussions on a contract extension for Pouncey, but there is plenty of time for them to do so. They often have come to terms on extensions with players as training camp opens. The Steelers for 20 years have followed a policy of not negotiating contract extensions once the regular season starts.

While they have been able to keep many of their good young players by signing them to extensions before they became free agents, they have allowed several to get away in the past year.

They tried to sign wide receiver Mike Wallace when he became a restricted free agent, but they could not agree to terms and he signed with Miami as a free agent. They never made an offer to cornerback Keenan Lewis when he had a year left on his contract, and he signed as a free agent with New Orleans. They matched a $2.5 million offer wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders signed with New England as a restricted free agent last year, but Sanders left without an offer to sign as a free agent with Denver this year.

There is a report in the Miami Herald that Pouncey's twin brother Mike Pouncey wants a contract extension now, even though the Dolphins have an option to extend his contract through the 2015 season. Mike Pouncey, a first-round draft pick in 2011, also is a center and made his first Pro Bowl last season.

Maurkice Pouncey has been working out and rehabbing his knee this offseason at the Steelers training facility.

The Steelers re-signed backup center Cody Wallace March 12 and could re-sign center Fernando Velasco, who signed and then started at center after Pouncey's injury until he missed the final four games with a torn Achilles tendon. Wallace started the final four games at center.

Draft watch

Three more college prospects paid visits to the Steelers Friday: Cornerback Bradley Roby of Ohio State and linebackers Kevin Pierre-Louis of Boston College and Carl Bradford of Arizona State.


Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.

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