Maurkice Pouncey

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While Aaron Rodgers‘ deal has received the most publicity for being outdated among quarterback contracts, Ben Roethlisberger‘s 2015 extension is looking more Steelers-friendly than it did a year ago.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

Extra Points: Coughlin, Jets, Cards, Steelers

Former Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he would be lying if he claimed he didn’t miss the sidelines, as Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com tweets. When asked about what the future might hold, the two-time Super Bowl winner said, “Who knows.” Coughlin, 70, will be inducted into Giants Ring of Honor on Monday night.

More from around the NFL:

  • Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick believes he’ll be able to start Sunday against the Rams despite his sprained MCL, a source tells Ed Werder of ESPN.com (on Twitter). If he can’t, Todd Bowles will go with second-year man Bryce Petty for his first career start.
  • Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu is recovering rapidly from an Oct. 30 shoulder injury and could return much quicker than the original three- to six-week timeline, head coach Bruce Arians said Tuesday (via the Associated Press). While Arians isn’t sure if Mathieu will play against the 49ers on Sunday, he did reveal that the 2015 first-team All-Pro is “real close.” Given that Arizona had a bye last week, it’s possible Mathieu’s shoulder issue won’t end up costing him any games.
  • Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey underwent surgery on his dislocated right thumb Tuesday, though it’s possible he’ll play Sunday against the Cowboys, per head coach Mike Tomlin (via Mark E. Ortega of NFL.com). Pouncey injured the thumb, which is on his snapping hand, in the Steelers’ 21-14 loss to the Ravens last Sunday and left the game in the second half.
  • Recapping Tuesday: Bills center Eric Wood is done for the season; Bene Benwikere is once again without a team; the Jets had a high asking price for defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson prior to the trade deadline; and Greg Hardy is in more trouble.

AFC North Notes: Thomas, Eifert, Ravens, Pouncey

The Browns lost more of their core talents this offseason as a new front office attempts another reboot. Joe Thomas didn’t necessarily agree with the decisions to let some of those players go and mentioned previous front office’s apathy toward keeping past free agents as a reason for where the team resides today.

That’s one of the frustrations that I’ve had over the years, and that’s the problem when you constantly are hitting the reset button is guys that are really good players like that end up falling through the cracks or going to other teams because any time a new staff comes in basically they wipe out the middle class,” Thomas said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “They keep a couple of your superstars and then they want everyone else being a rookie so that they can try to develop them.

When you keep doing that over and over again, you really lose all your middle class on your team. So guys like Buster Skrine, Jabaal Sheard, D’Qwell Jackson, Jordan Cameron, Travis Benjamin … disappeared, even though those were the guys that you drafted them, spent the time developing them and right when they’re hitting stride in the peaks of their career, they end up going somewhere else and having great success.”

Thomas, who continues to be the subject of trade rumors, and Joe Haden remain two of the only long-tenured Browns. The franchise also let Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz walk this spring. Cleveland possesses an NFL-most $49.3MM in cap space.

Here’s the latest from the Browns’ AFC North rivals.

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Bengals, Pouncey

The Ravens‘ decision to cut Eugene Monroe had nothing to do with his position on medical marijuana and was simply a football determination, head coach John Harbaugh told reporters, including Clifton Brown of CSNBaltimore.com (Twitter link). Clearly, that statement has generated a few doubting looks around the NFL, especially because Baltimore made mention of Monroe’s pro-marijuana stance in their press release announcing the move. However, reports did indicate that the Ravens wanted to wait until Monroe was cleared from a health standpoint before releasing him, and that clearance was apparently received this week. Baltimore’s offensive line will feature two new starters in 2016, with rookie Ronnie Stanley taking over at left tackle while John Urschel mans left guard.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • Running back Trent Richardson will require arthroscopic knee surgery to repair an existing condition and will miss “some time,” according to Jeff Zriebec of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links), who adds that although the injury isn’t considered severe, it certainly won’t help Richardson’s case as he aims to earn a spot on the Ravens‘ roster. Richardson, who is still only 25 years old, agreed to a one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum earlier this offseason, joining a Baltimore running back corps that already includes Justin Forsett, Javorius Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West, and rookie Kenneth Dixon. Depending on how long he is sidelined, it’s entirely possible that Richardson won’t ever get a real shot at making the club, and he’s a candidate to be released with an injury settlement.
  • The Bengals have been quite proactive this offseason in terms of extensions, locking up both safety Shawn Williams and running back Giovani Bernard to long-term deals. This isn’t a new phenomenon for the club, leading Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer to examine which Bengal might be the next to land a multi-year pact. Veterans like Andrew Whitworth and Dre Kirkpatrick are unlikely to sign deals — at least before season starts — simply because Cincinnati has so much leverage, having invested draft picks at tackle and cornerback over the past several seasons, leading H-back Ryan Hewitt as perhaps the most plausible candidate to ink an extension. Tight end Tyler Eifert, notably, was left off the list, though he is dealing with an injury, and is controlled through the 2017 season via the fifth-year option.
  • Maurkice Pouncey didn’t play a single snap for the Steelers after breaking his fibula during the club’s third preseason game, but the injury was much more severe than many originally thought. Pouncey underwent six surgical procedures and a skin graft during the course of the 2015 campaign, the veteran center tells Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, explaining how he went from injured reserve/designated to return to missing the entire season. “It was scary,” Pouncey said. “I don’t want that on my worst enemy.” Pouncey is expected to be fully ready for the season, though Fowler notes that the Pittsburgh staff is pressuring him to take days off out of an abundance of caution.

Watt, Bryant, Others Get Salary Guarantees

Several NFL players have contracts containing language which states that they’ll get a full or partial salary guarantees for 2016 and/or 2017 if they remained on their respective teams on Sunday, the fifth day of the league year. Let’s check in on those players (link courtesy of CBS Sports’ Joel Corry):

  • Ryan Tannehill, quarterback (Dolphins): $3.5MM of $17.975MM base salary for 2017 is guaranteed.
  • Dez Bryant, wide receiver (Cowboys): $13MM base salary for 2017 is guaranteed.
  • T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver (Colts): $3MM base salary for 2016 is guaranteed. $6MM roster bonus now "<strongpayable.
  • Anthony Castonzo, offensive tackle (Colts): $2.5MM base salary for 2016 is guaranteed. $4.5MM roster bonus now payable.
  • Tyron Smith, offensive tackle (Cowboys): $10MM base salary for 2016 is guaranteed.
  • Branden Albert, offensive tackle (Dolphins): $6MM of $8.245MM base salary for 2017 is guaranteed.
  • Mike Pouncey, center (Dolphins): $9MM base salary for 2016 is guaranteed, as is $2MM of Pouncey’s $7.95MM base salary in 2017.
  • Maurkice Pouncey, center (Steelers): $3.5MM roster bonus now payable.
  • Cameron Heyward, defensive end (Steelers): $5MM roster bonus now payable.
  • J.J. Watt, defensive end (Texans): $10.5MM base salaries for 2016 and 2017 are guaranteed.
  • Robert Quinn, defensive end (Rams): $7,777,777MM base salary for 2016 is guaranteed.
  • Lavonte David, linebacker (Buccaneers): $5MM base salary for 2016 is guaranteed.
  • Chris Harris Jr., cornerback (Broncos): $6.9MM base salary for 2016 is guaranteed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Manziel, Pouncey, Ravens

Video footage has surfaced in recent days of Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel partying at a nightclub in Austin, Texas, the latest off-field distraction for a player who vowed to cut down on those stories this season. While Manziel hinted that the video posted of him could be an old one, multiple outlets have indicated it was filmed last week, during the Browns’ bye, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com outlines.

Speaking today to reporters, including Cabot, head coach Mike Pettine said that the Browns are still in the process of gathering information about the video, but called it “very” disappointing (Twitter links). It was only a week ago that Pettine committed to Manziel as the club’s starting quarterback for the rest of the season, but this situation may make the staff reconsider — Pettine confirmed today that Josh McCown is ready to play if Cleveland decides to start him over Manziel (Twitter link).

As Pettine explained, the Browns’ concern and frustration stems from Manziel’s “repeated pattern of behavior” (Twitter links). The head coach wouldn’t say if the organization would ask Manziel to get more help, after he spent 10 weeks in a rehab facility during the offseason (Twitter link).

Here’s more from around the AFC North:

  • Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey has been on IR-DTR since the start of the season, and it doesn’t sound like he’s quite ready to be activated. The initial timetable for Pouncey, who broke his fibula, suggested he’d be out until at least Week 12, and head coach Mike Tomlin said today that he hasn’t checked on the veteran lineman’s status, adding that it’s not the “11th hour” for that situation quite yet (Twitter link via Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network).
  • The Ravens are in the market for a backup quarterback, with Matt Schaub set to take over for Joe Flacco. However, there’s nothing going on between the team and veteran free agent Jason Campbell, sources tell Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post (Twitter link). That’s not surprising, since other teams have had no luck wooing Campbell this year.
  • Flacco’s ACL injury adds another layer to the contract re-negotiations that are sure to happen this offseason between the quarterback and the Ravens, writes Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. In Zrebiec’s view though, Flacco will still have the leverage, assuming his recovery is progressing smoothly. Zrebiec also addresses Tyrod Taylor‘s offseason departure, Quinton Coples‘ potential fit – or lack thereof – in Baltimore, and the idea of the Ravens targeting a tackle in next year’s draft.

Update On IR-DTR Players

We’re now through eight weeks of the NFL season, which means we’re approaching the year’s halfway point. It also means that players who were placed on the injured reserve list with the designation to return prior to the regular season are eligible to be activated and play in their respective teams’ next games.

Players placed on IR with the designation to return are eligible to begin practicing after six weeks, and can return to game action after eight weeks, so there are some IR-DTR players who have begun practicing already, and some of them could be activated for Week 9. Not every player will be healthy enough to return immediately now that they’ve become eligible to do so, but we should see at least a handful of the 10 players who have been on IR-DTR all year be activated to 53-man rosters in the coming days.

Here’s a breakdown of the 10 IR-DTR players eligible to be activated for Week 9:

  • Jay Ajayi, RB (Dolphins): Ajayi recently said that he’s back to full health, though the Dolphins may have a decision to make in their backfield if they decide to activate the rookie runner.
  • Alex Carter, CB (Lions): Carter is on track to begin practicing after the Lions’ Week 9 bye, and likely won’t be activated right away.
  • David Cobb, RB (Titans): Cobb is expected to be activated this week, and at least one Titans beat reporter believes the rookie is capable of earning a high percentage of the team’s carries.
  • Demar Dotson, T (Buccaneers): When he began practicing, Dotson admitted his injured knee wasn’t where he wanted it to be, but it sounds like he’s made enough progress to be activated this week.
  • Charles Gaines, CB (Browns): Gaines returned to practice when he was eligible to do so, and sounds like he’s eager to get back on Cleveland’s roster. If the Browns want him active for Week 9, they’ll have to make a move soon, since the team plays on Thursday this week.
  • Dee Milliner, CB (Jets): Head coach Todd Bowles said last week that he believes Milliner will be ready to play as soon as he becomes eligible, though he cautioned that the team will need to find room on the active roster.
  • Maurkice Pouncey, C (Steelers): There has been some speculation that Pouncey could be sidelined for the entire season, but head coach Mike Tomlin still expects his veteran center back this year. That likely won’t happen for a few more weeks though, since the initial diagnosis put Pouncey on track to be out until at least Week 12.
  • Bryan Stork, C (Patriots): The Patriots’ offensive line has been hit hard by injuries this season, so having to decide between Stork and David Andrews at center will be a welcome problem for the team. Stork appears on track to return in Week 9.
  • John Sullivan, C (Vikings): After suffering a setback and undergoing another surgical procedure, Sullivan won’t be back anytime soon, and may not play at all this season.
  • Brent Urban, DE (Ravens): Asked two weeks ago about Urban, head coach John Harbaugh said that the defensive end wasn’t practicing, adding that his recovery would probably take “a few more weeks.”

While these 10 players are the only ones on IR-DTR eligible to return in Week 9, there are 12 more who will gain eligibility in the coming weeks. The full list can be found right here.

Among those 12 other IR-DTR players, the most notable name is Tony Romo, who can’t play until Week 11. The Cowboys quarterback is eligible to begin practicing this week, but Rand Getlin of the NFL Network (Twitter link) hears that won’t happen quite yet. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter), Romo is still on track to return to the field when he’s eligible for game action, but it makes sense to keep getting Matt Cassel first-team practice reps in the meantime.

AFC Notes: Jags, K. Williams, Pouncey, Bills

The Jaguars‘ current agreement to play one home game per season in London expires in 2016, but it sounds like team owner Shad Khan, along with the NFL, may be getting ready to make an announcement on that subject. According to Conor Orr of NFL.com, Khan said he didn’t “want to scoop anything,” but hinted that an announcement regarding a new agreement for the Jaguars’ international games may be forthcoming.

As we wait for news on the Jags, let’s round up a few more AFC notes…

  • Speaking to reporters today in London, Bills head coach Rex Ryan acknowledged that Kyle Williams‘ knee injury is “significant,” as Joe Buscaglia of WKBW tweets. Williams is currently expected to be sidelined for multiple weeks with a PCL issue, though Ryan’s comments may suggest that the injury is even more serious.
  • Reports last week indicated that Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was expected to undergo a second operation, potentially jeopardizing his season. However, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Pouncey didn’t undergo a second procedure on his broken left fibula, and Tomlin is still expecting the veteran center to return this season, writes Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  • In a piece for CBSSports.com, former agent Joel Corry eyes 12 teams with potential quarterback instability on the horizon, identifying the Broncos, Chiefs, Jets, Texans, Browns, and Bills as the AFC teams without a long-term option set in stone.
  • Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin, who remains on the non-football injury list for now, appears ready to return to practice today, and could be activated to Buffalo’s 53-man roster if and when the team determines he’s ready, says Mike Rodak of ESPN.com.