The Steelers have taken a calculated risk by making Maurkice Pouncey the highest paid center in the NFL

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Maurkice Pouncey has received a contract extension which will make him, on average, the highest earning center in the NFL. Coming off an ACL tear, the Steelers have taken a calculated risk in paying one of their best offensive players top dollar.

A five year, $44 million extension for Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey. An average of $8.8 million per year in new money, making Pouncey the highest paid center in the league.

Step aside Ryan Kalil and Alex Mack, Maurkice Pouncey is in town and he's got one hell of an agent.

The first thing that comes to mind, glaringly so, is that Pouncey's season ending injury played absolutely no role in contract negotiations, nor has it appeared to lower the price of the contract.

Of course, there is no year-by-year breakdown available as of yet, but an $8.8 million a year average is nothing to sniff at, instantly making Pouncey one of the highest paid on the team, and of course the highest paid at his position.

On the face of it, the body of Pouncey's work speaks for itself. He's a three time All-Pro and Pro Bowler. The players that attain those accolades in their first three seasons tend to be the ones you want to lock up. On hs best day, there is little doubt in my mind that Maurkice Pouncey is in the top tier of centers, perhaps the best.

On top of that, he's not even 25 yet. When you say it out loud, a three time Pro Bowler who isn't even 25, he's worth every penny.

But then of course, there is the injury history, the elephant in the room.

Pouncey missed all but a handful of snaps last season when David Decastro went tumbling into the back of his knee, tearing his ACL. Pouncey is fully rehabbed and back working without restrictions, but an ACL tear is a big injury, it can play tricks on you're mind as well as you're body.

Especially for an offensive lineman, who faces all manner of constant, physical contact on every snap. Will he be the same player this year, or will he need time to recover? Will the injury have a permanent effect?

Then of course, there are the little niggling injuries so easily associated with Pouncey, a sprain here and a sprain there, it adds up. Historically he hasn't been the healthiest of guys.

It's interesting to draw comparisons to recently jettisoned linebacker Lamar Woodley, who after receiving his huge pay day eventually found himself on the trainers table far too often. Of course, the two situations are far from analogous, Woodley wasn't injury prone prior to his extension, and the nature of the injuries were considerably different.

Ultimately, the Steelers were not scared off by the ghosts of Woodley past, nor do they appear frightened by Pouncey's own list of wear and tear, That in itself is a good sign, and indicative that the front office, not known to be high flying risk takers, believe Pouncey can move forward at his healthy All Pro pace.

Intelligent, uber-athletic, experienced and a leader, Pouncey is just what the Pittsburgh line needs, and he fits like a glove into Mike Munchak's zone running scheme.

The running game, the offensive line and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will all be the better for a healthy Pouncey being present for the next 6 years.

That being said, I find it hard to characterise this extension as anything other than a risk, a calculated one but a risk none the less.

Pouncey's got a little bit of wear and tear on him, obviously the ACL tear was not his fault but it still happened. He hasn't performed in a competitive game setting in almost a year. To commit so huge a chunk of cap to a player in this circumstance is always going to be a risk.

Contract extensions are not about past performance (except for creating parameters), they're about projected production. The Steelers have chosen to pay the value of the All Pro, best player he can possibly become Maurkice Pouncey, not the untested, rehabbing Maurkice Pouncey with a minor injury history.

There is always going to be risks inherent in doing that.

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