Maurkice Pouncey

Steelers OL Maurkice Pouncey Restructures Contract

Another hour, another Steelers veteran restructuring their contract. This time, it’s offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey, according to Brooke Pryor of ESPN (via Twitter).

As the reporter points out, Pouncey was due a $5MM base salary in 2020, plus a $3MM roster bonus and a $3MM pro-rated bonus this year. Last offseason, Pouncey signed a two-year extension worth $22MM, setting him up to be the highest-paid center in the NFL (from an average annual value perspective).

The 30-year-old has spent his entire career with the Steelers, earning eight Pro Bowl nods and a pair of first-time All-Pro honors. Pouncey started all 13 of his games in 2019, and he missed a pair of games following the fallout from the Myles Garrett/Mason Rudolph brawl.

Pouncey joins a growing list of Steelers who have restructured their contracts in recent days. As Dulac points out, that list includes the likes quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, tight end Vance McDonald, cornerbacks Joe Haden and Steven Nelson and kicker Chris Boswell. When also accounting for the team’s released players, the organization has already opened up around $35MM in cap space.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Eagles, Jacobs, Steelers, Hawks

Afflicted with injuries to their receiving corps for most of the season, the Eagles will be severely shorthanded on this front in their win-and-in game Sunday. In addition to Nelson Agholor missing another game, Zach Ertz is not ready to return. Carson Wentz‘s top target will miss Week 17 due to back and ribs injuries. Ertz left the Eagles’ Week 16 win, leaving second-year tight end Dallas Goedert as Wentz’s most proven target.

Here is the latest from Philadelphia and other contending teams’ injury situations going into the regular season’s final Sunday:

  • While the Eagles are stripped of their top three wide receivers and their premier tight end, Jordan Howard will return. The fourth-year running back missed Philadelphia’s past six games due to a shoulder injury. The Eagles’ leading rusher when the injury surfaced at the midseason point, Howard will rejoin a backfield that’s seen more from Miles Sanders and some contributions from Boston Scott.
  • Moving to another playoff hopeful’s running back situation, the Raiders will be without Josh Jacobs on Sunday in Denver. The team declared Jacobs out, meaning he will miss a third game in his past four. Their offensive rookie of the year candidate is battling a shoulder malady and a skin condition, the latter prompting him to undergo a minor surgery this week. Jacobs missed Week 14 and Week 16 due to a shoulder injury. Free agent-to-be DeAndre Washington has filled in well for Jacobs, amassing 202 scrimmage yards in those two games. The Raiders need to win and receive another Sunday of good fortune to make the playoffs.
  • One of the teams the Raiders need to lose Sunday will be shorthanded on the ground as well. James Conner will miss the Steelers‘ regular-season finale, joining Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey in that regard. After missing a chunk of Pittsburgh’s season with a shoulder injury, Conner is now dealing with a quad problem. Pouncey is down due to a knee ailment.
  • Most of the non-Marshawn Lynch Seahawks news this week centers around the players who will not be available Sunday night, but the team will have some key players back in uniform. Jadeveon Clowney and Shaquill Griffin missed Seattle’s past two games but will be on the field in Sunday’s de facto NFC West championship game against San Francisco. Clowney is still battling the core issue that he initially played through but one that’s caused him to miss time.
  • The 49ers placed another defensive lineman on IR. Defensive tackle Jullian Taylor will end his season on the injured list because of an ACL tear sustained in practice this week, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. A 2018 seventh-round pick, Taylor played in six 49ers games this season. Defensive linemen Taylor, Ronald Blair, D.J. Jones and Damontre Moore reside on San Francisco’s IR list.

NFL Upholds Myles Garrett’s Suspension

Myles Garrett‘s historic suspension will stand. The NFL upheld the indefinite ban handed down to the Browns defensive end for striking Mason Rudolph in the head with the Steelers quarterback’s helmet. However, Maurkice Pouncey‘s appeal will drop his penalty from three games to two, the league announced Thursday.

Pouncey will still miss the Steelers’ rematch with the Browns, which will occur in Week 13. Pouncey will also be fined $35K. The 10th-year center will miss out on two game checks but can return for Pittsburgh’s Week 14 game in Arizona. Garrett, however, is done for the regular season and any possible playoff games.

The standout defensive end must apply for reinstatement in the offseason. With Garrett firmly in the defensive player of the year conversation, this guts the Browns, who had won two straight. The league also will fine Garrett $45K. This comes a day after the league upheld Larry Ogunjobi‘s one-game suspension. Ogunjobi will be eligible to play in the AFC North rivals’ rematch next week.

In addition to Garrett’s side arguing that the CBA does not contain precise language stipulating a ban of this nature could occur for an on-field act, they cited Antonio Smith‘s one-game suspension for swinging his helmet at Richie Incognito in 2013. Garrett also alleged the Steelers quarterback used a racial slur. The Steelers and Rudolph’s attorney deny this. The NFL looked into Garrett’s racially charged accusation and did not find evidence to support the claim, league spokesman Brian McCarthy said (Twitter link).

Of course, Garrett striking Rudolph in the head during a nationally televised game obviously differentiates this sequence from the Smith-Incognito dust-up, which did not involve clear contact. Despite the former No. 1 overall pick making the Pro Bowl last season and building an All-Pro-caliber resume leading up to his now-infamous moment, this is certainly the former Texas A&M standout’s defining NFL act to date.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns-Steelers Brawl

NOV. 18: Per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, Ogunjobi’s appeal will be heard Monday, and Pouncey’s appeal will be heard Tuesday. Schefter says that Garrett’s appeal will be heard on Wednesday (Twitter link). Schefter notes in a separate tweet that Garrett intends to be at the hearing to state his case in person.

NOV. 17: The NFL has suspended Browns defensive end Myles Garrett indefinitely, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that Garrett will appeal the ban (Twitter link).

In case you haven’t heard, Garrett was the central figure in a horrific melee that broke out in the final moments of Thursday night’s contest between the Steelers and Browns. While both fanbases certainly have their own perspective on the matter, it’s clear that Garrett unnecessarily drove Steelers QB Mason Rudolph into the ground after Rudolph released a pass. The play could have been flagged — and may have been if the game were in doubt at that point or if there were more then eight seconds left — and Rudolph took exception to it.

Rudolph grabbed at Garrett’s helmet and kicked out at him, which caused Garrett to escalate the scuffle beyond what anyone could have reasonably expected, yanking Rudolph’s helmet off of him and striking him over the head with it. That naturally led to a scrum between both clubs that saw Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (three games) and Browns defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi (one game) receive suspensions. Rudolph, Pouncey, and Ogunjobi were all fined, and obviously Garrett will be fined as well.

As Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, more fines will be coming for Rudolph and others. While NFL head of football operations Troy Vincent and his team initially reviewed the footage of the brawl with a focus on who committed offenses worthy of a suspension, they will now comb through the tape to determine the full amount of fines (and what other players may deserve them). Vincent says there will certainly be another wave of fines on the way, and both the Steelers and Browns have been hit with $250K sanctions.

Adam Schefter of ESPN.com says the appeals for Garrett, Pouncey, and Ogunjobi will be heard on Monday and Tuesday by jointly-appointed officers Derrick Brooks and James Thrash. The rulings are expected no later than Wednesday. Schefter adds in a separate report that at least 10 players will be fined, and that the announcement will be issued next weekend.

Per Rapoport, Garrett’s camp will argue that the CBA does not allow for indefinite suspensions for on-field acts and that the league should impose a ban for a finite number of games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

More Fallout: Garrett, Pouncey, Rudolph

More fallout from the Browns/Steelers brawl, as Myles Garrett and Cleveland owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam have both issued statements via the team’s official site. “We are extremely disappointed in what transpired last evening at the end of our game. There is no place for that in football and that is not reflective of the core values we strive for as an organization. We sincerely apologize to Mason Rudolph and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Myles Garrett has been a good teammate and member of our organization and community for the last three years but his actions last night were completely unacceptable. We understand the consequences from the league for his actions,” the Haslams said.

Garrett’s statement read “last night, I made a terrible mistake. I lost my cool and what I did was selfish and unacceptable. I know that we are all responsible for our actions and I can only prove my true character through my actions moving forward. I want to apologize to Mason Rudolph, my teammates, our entire organization, our fans and to the NFL. I know I have to be accountable for what happened, learn from my mistake and I fully intend to do so.”

Here’s some more on the situation:

  • Maurkice Pouncey, suspended three games for pummeling Garrett after he hit Rudolph with his helmet, is going to appeal his suspension, a source told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). The Steelers play the Browns again in two weeks and the league almost certainly wants to keep him out of that game, but maybe he’ll be able to get his suspension reduced from three to two games. Pouncey is a key member of the offensive line, and the seven-time Pro Bowler will be sorely missed as long as he’s not manning the pivot.
  • Rudolph may have escaped without a suspension, but he isn’t being held totally blameless by the league office. The quarterback will indeed be fined for his role in the fight, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link). Considering many felt Rudolph should’ve been suspended for initially tugging at Garrett’s helmet and then charging him, he dodged a bullet. Given he threw four interceptions in the game last night, a fine is the least of his worries right now.

Steelers, Maurkice Pouncey Agree To Extension

The Steelers and Pro-Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey have agreed to a two-year extension worth $22MM, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). With a new money average of $11MM per season, Pouncey is slated to become the NFL’s highest-paid center in 2020, provided that he is not leapfrogged in the interim. Pouncey was already signed through 2019, so the new pact will take him through the 2021 season.

Pouncey, not to be confused with brother Mike Pouncey of the Chargers, has been with the Steelers since being drafted No. 18 overall in 2010. He has earned a Pro Bowl nod in every full season since then, giving him seven selections in total. Pouncey also earned First-Team All-Pro honors in 2011 and 2014.

Last year, Pouncey ranked as the No. 14 center in the NFL, a bit below his usual spot. Still, he passed the Steelers’ naked eye test and the club is moving to keep the 29-year-old (30 this summer) in the fold for years to come.

Earlier this week, the Steelers took another step towards continuity on the offensive line by assigning a second-round tender to B.J. Finney.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Notable 2019 Pro Bowl Incentives/Escalators

The NFL announced the 2018 Pro Bowl rosters earlier on Wednesday, and aside from determining which players will spend a week in Orlando early next year, the rosters also dictate several important bonuses and/or contract escalators for individual players. Former NFL agent and current CBSSports.com contributor Joel Corry has rounded up the notable incentives earned, and we’ll pass those along below. As Corry notes (Twitter link), only first ballot Pro Bowlers who actually participate in the game (unless injured or playing in the Super Bowl) are in bonuses, which are typically paid out by the end of March.

Here are the notable Pro Bowl bonuses and escalators that were netted last evening (all links to Corry’s Twitter):

Bonuses

  • Ravens S Eric Weddle$1MM; requires Baltimore in playoffs (link): For the second consecutive season, Weddle’s bonus will ride on the ability of the Ravens to earn a postseason berth. Baltimore is one of several teams in the mix for the AFC’s No. 6 seed, but FiveThirtyEight gives the club only a 41% chance of actually making the playoffs. Weddle, who will be entering his age-34 campaign in 2019, could potentially retire or be released before next season starts.
  • Chargers C Mike Pouncey, $500K (link): Pouncey somewhat surprisingly earned a Pro Bowl nod alongside his brother, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey. Mike Pouncey hasn’t been a terrible player by any means, but Raiders center Rodney Hudson has undoubtedly been better. Signed to a two-year contract this offeason, Pouncey is due a $6MM base salary and a $1.5MM roster bonus in 2019.
  • Vikings WR Adam Thielen, $500K (link): Thielen, notably, signed arguably the most team-friendly contract in the NFL in March 2017, a three-year deal that’s worth less than $20MM. By picking up a half-million dollar Pro Bowl bonus, Thielen will collect a bit more cash, but he’s still vastly underpaid. Second in the league in receptions, Thielen will count just $11.5MM total on the Vikings’ salary cap over the next two years.
  • Eagles TE Zach Ertz, $100K (link): Ertz will also see his base salaries increase by $250K in each of the 2019, 2020, and 2021 campaigns. He’s already surpassed career-highs in both receptions and yardage, and could top his career-high of eight touchdowns with a strong showing down the stretch.

Escalators

  • Chiefs T Eric Fisher, $500K base salary increase in 2019 (link): While Fisher hasn’t necessarily lived up to his status as a former No. 1 overall pick, he has played nearly every offensive snap for the Chiefs over the past six years while offering respectable play. He’s signed through 2021 as part of a four-year, $48MM extension he inked in 2016. Kansas City’s best tackle — Mitchell Schwartz, who mans the right side — has somehow been named second-team All-Pro for three consecutive years without ever being given a Pro Bowl nod.
  • Lions CB Darius Slay, $550K base salary increase in 2019 (link): Slay needed to reach two of three thresholds in order to earn his escalator. While he hasn’t yet met a five interception requirement, he was named to the Pro Bowl and has played on at least 80% of the Lions’ defensive snaps.
  • Packers WR Davante Adams, $250K base salary increase in 2019 (link): While he’s not quite at Thielen-level in terms of selling himself short, Adams arguably signed his extension with the Packers well before he needed to. Adams took a four-year, $58MM deal in December 2017, just months before he was scheduled to hit the open market. He’s vaunted to true No. 1 wideout status this year, but he’s just the NFL’s ninth-highest-paid wideout in terms of annual average.
  • Eagles G Brandon Brooks, $250K base salary increase in 2019-2020 (link): Brooks, 29, is quietly one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, and Pro Football Focus currently grades him as the No. 5 guard in the league. He’s signed through the 2020 season, although his contract does contain two void years in 2021-22 that are in place only for salary cap purposes.

Roethlisberger Not Pursuing 2018 Extension

While Aaron Rodgers‘ deal has received the most publicity for being outdated among quarterback contracts, Ben Roethlisberger‘s 2015 extension is looking more Steelers-friendly than it did a year ago.

Signed to a four-year deal that pays him $21.85MM on average, Pittsburgh’s franchise quarterback is now well off the pace Matt Ryan ($30MM AAV) is now setting. Roethlisberger’s deal came in below Rodgers’ current contract ($22MM per year) and now sits 12th on the quarterback hierarchy.

The Steelers have a policy of not renegotiating contracts that have more than one year remaining on them. Although, Kevin Colbert said earlier this offseason a Roethlisberger 2018 extension isn’t off the table. Pittsburgh, however, shouldn’t expect a contentious battle from the signal-caller just yet.

I have two years on my contract. I’m not going to be one to sit here and worry about my contract,” Roethlisberger said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “That’s not my job. My job is to play football. I’ll let my representation, the Steelers worry about all that stuff. To me, it’s all about going out and playing now. I think there are a lot more, maybe a lot more important people who need to get their deals done now.

For me to do it two years out, if it doesn’t make sense for the team, I’m not going to sit here and worry about it.”

Surely alluding to Le’Veon Bell‘s impasse with the team, one that is less than a month from a possible point of no return that is the tag deadline, Roethlisberger doesn’t sound like he’s going to pursue a extension until after this year. He’ll be entering a contract year in 2019 just as Ryan was before his record-breaking re-up, thus increasing his leverage. While Roethlisberger be 37 shortly after this season concludes, the Steelers’ Super Bowl window may well coincide with his employment.

The 15th-year quarterback also doesn’t foresee himself gunning for the kind of contract that would make it difficult for the Steelers, a franchise that relies on extensions due to a philosophy that largely eschews free agency, to keep core performers.

It’s important, too, to understand as quarterback of this team, sometimes you almost have to leave a little bit of money behind for other guys,” Roethlisberger said, via Fowler. “That’s not my job, that’s not my thing to worry about. That’s why I have agents.”

The 36-year-old quarterback is now not debating retirement like he was after the 2017 offseason. He said quickly after the ’17 season ended he intended to play in 2018, and talk of another Steelers extension emerged soon after. Big Ben also grumbled, to some degree, the Steelers drafted Mason Rudolph in Round 3 rather than a player who could immediately help the contending team.

Roethlisberger wants the Steelers to extend center Maurkice Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert. Both have two years left on their deals and are now seeing their quarterback issue a low-key ultimatum regarding their futures with the team.

I know in two years, Pouncey, Gilbert, there are other very important guys up that I hope get taken care of,” Roethlisberger said. “Because if they aren’t here, I’m not here. That’s the way it is; they are that good.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers Players Criticize Harrison’s Exit

Late last week the Steelers made the surprising decision to cut linebacker James Harrison. The veteran went unclaimed but was quickly signed by AFC rival New England. He then let it be known he was unhappy about his playing time and asked for his release several times. James Harrison (vertical)

His Steelers teammates hit back at Harrison on Wednesday, saying it was exactly what he wanted to happen and that he went out of his way to try to get released, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

“Don’t make it look like it’s the team’s fault,” Maurkice Pouncey said. “You think the team and the organization wanted to get rid of James Harrison? Come on, now. If I wanted out, I wouldn’t let the team take the blame for it.”

According to Fowler’s source, Harrison would sleep during position meetings and snore loudly while linebacker’s coach, and Harrison’s former teammate, Joey Porter tried to teach. Another source said Harrison told teammates he was trying to get traded and would leave the facility or stadium at random times or during games when he was inactive.

With the Patriots and Steelers possibly set to meet in the AFC playoffs, some wondered if Harrison would share information with his new team. Linebacker Bud Dupree doesn’t think he will, saying, “I don’t know how many secrets about the playbook Harrison could give to [the Patriots] because I never saw him in meetings.”

Pouncey went as far to say that Harrison, who starred in Super Bowl XLIII vs. the Cardinals, “erased his own legacy” with the departure.

Though surprising to Steelers fans, the move obviously was one that was welcomed and expected by many within the organization. To say there is bad blood here would be putting it lightly.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Rumors: Steelers, Broncos, Titans

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey‘s career could end when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger‘s does, relays Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Pouncey’s still young (he’ll turn 28 in July), but it’s possible the seventh-year man and five-time Pro Bowler would rather hang it up than continue with someone other than Roethlisberger, who mulled retirement after last season and is entering his age-35 campaign. “It will be hard for me to come back if he’s not here,” Pouncey said of Roethlisberger. “Whenever you’re playing with that level of quarterback, to try to switch that up would be a different mojo for everybody on the team. … I’m glad he came back. We need him to win a championship around here.”

More on Pittsburgh and two other AFC clubs:

  • Three Broncos who have gone high in recent drafts, wide receiver Cody Latimer, offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo and tight end Jeff Heuerman, will have to fight for their roster spots in training camp, observes Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post. Latimer, a second-rounder in 2014, hasn’t made much of an impact as a receiver (16 career catches), and he’s not in position to change that with Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie ahead of him on the depth chart. As such, his best hope is to make the Broncos as a special teamer, posits Wolfe, who expects that to happen. Sambrailo, meanwhile, went in the second round a year later and has only totaled 13 appearances and seven starts. Even if he cracks the Broncos’ roster, Sambrailo seems likely to serve as primarily a backup again, as the team spent a first-rounder on tackle Garett Bolles this year after adding fellow bookend Menelik Watson on a three-year, $18.3MM deal in free agency. And then there’s Heuerman, a 2015 third-rounder who missed his entire rookie year with a torn ACL and then caught nine passes in 12 games last season. He’ll have to fend off Henry Krieger-Coble to make the team, notes Wolfe. Denver’s other tight end options include Virgil Green, A.J. Derby and fifth-rounder Jake Butt, a former Michigan standout who’s working back from the torn ACL he suffered in his final college game last December.
  • As a rookie last season, fifth-rounder Tajae Sharpe finished second among Titans wide receivers in catches (41), targets (83) and yards (522) in 2016. Nevertheless, it seems he’ll enter camp with a weak hold on a roster spot, writes Jason Wolf of the Tennesseean. The Titans used two valuable picks on receivers – Corey Davis in the first round and Taywan Taylor in the third – in the spring and then signed established veteran Eric Decker last week. Those additions combined with Sharpe’s questionable health (he recently underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his right foot) and a police investigation over an alleged assault have the 22-year-old in limbo, according to Wolf.
  • The fact that the Steelers have a deep receiving corps means third-year man Sammie Coates will have to battle for a spot in camp, suggests Fowler. Coates was a relatively high selection in 2015, when he went in Round 3 of the draft, but the ex-Auburn star has totaled just 22 receptions in 21 games as a Steeler. A broken finger and a groin injury likely contributed to Coates’ underwhelming output last season (21 catches on 49 targets, two touchdowns), and he indicated that he’s nearing full health with camp approaching. “I’m getting there. It’s a process,” said Coates, who underwent sports hernia surgery over the winter. “That’s what this process is for, to get your body back so you can compete during camp.”