Maurkice Pouncey signs $44M deal

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers locked up the anchor of their offensive line and one of their team leaders on Thursday, when center Maurkice Pouncey agreed to a five-year, $44 million contract, a league official confirmed to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The deal makes Pouncey the highest-paid center in the NFL. It also ends speculation about whether the five-year, $42 million contract that center Alex Mack signed with the Cleveland Browns in April would complicate the Steelers' efforts to sign Pouncey to a long-term deal.

Pouncey, the Steelers' first-round pick in 2010, is the only center in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons. The 6-foot-4, 304-pounder missed all but eight plays last season after tearing several ligaments in his right knee, including his ACL, in the Steelers' season opener.

Prior to last season, Pouncey had missed just three regular-season games in three seasons.

Pouncey has been a full participant during organized team activities, which conclude Thursday, and his return to health convinced the organization to make a significant investment in him. Pouncey had been going into the final year of his rookie contract, and he had been scheduled to make $3.863 million in 2014, according to ESPN Stats & Info, with a salary-cap hit of $5.264 million. The $8 million in salary-cap savings that the Steelers received last week from releasing outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley in March allowed them to sign Pouncey to the new deal.

Pouncey's twin brother, Mike, plays for the Miami Dolphins.

The Steelers also may have several other players on their radar for long-term contracts before the start of the season. Outside linebacker Jason Worilds and cornerback Cortez Allen are among the Steelers players who have one year left on their respective contracts. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has two years remaining on his contract, is also a candidate for a long-term deal.