If there is one thing that Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey can certainly emphasize with, it would have to be the fleeting nature of an NFL career that can be quickly taken away from you by an injury. The former first-round draft pick seriously worried that he may never play again following a 2015 injury that resulted in more than half a dozen surgeries.
So perhaps he is in a better position to understand than most the perspective of his teammate, running back Le’Veon Bell, who reportedly turned down perhaps the second-largest contract ever given to a player at his position, and who is delaying signing his franchise tender until the preseason is completed.
Pouncey understands where he is coming from, and isn’t too worried about the supposed public relations issues he is bring upon himself. “People catch feelings about certain things”, he told Jeremy Fowler. But, he said, “I think anybody in his situation would do the same exact thing. I would”.
Of course, he was never quite put in that same position. Coming into the league already on a lucrative rookie contract for a mid-first-round pick, he signed an extension four years into his career that made him, at the time, the highest-paid center in the league.
He did so coming off of a torn ACL, but even Pouncey doesn’t quite have Bell’s history. He has had each of his past three seasons end with injuries, two to his knees, one to his groin, and he has also missed five games due to two separate suspensions.
These confounding factors make it difficult for the All-Pro running back to maximize his earnings—fairly, I might add—but Pouncey sees Bell’s position. “As a player, you try to go out there and get as much as you can”, he admitted.
“Especially with the things that Le’Veon has been through and the production he’s put on the football field, he deserves a big-time contract”, his teammate went on to say of Bel. “Who in the NFL wouldn’t say that? At the end of the day, it’s a business”.
At the same time, Pouncey praised the Steelers’ front office. “That’s why the Steelers are one of the greatest organizations in all of football. They know what they are doing upstairs. No one down here questions it”.
As far as people who question Bell’s love of the game, his team, and his teammates, the eighth-year veteran was having none of it. “Trust me”, he said of the running back wanting to be there. “He wants to be a football player, he wants to be the best running back in the NFL”.
But “at the same time, it’s a business”, he concluded, a fact he believes the fans have a hard time understanding. “But we do”. He doesn’t expect there to be hard feelings in the locker room come next Friday, because his teammates understand his positioning himself for next offseason.