There is only one game left to be played in the NFL this season, so that means for at least 30 of the 32 teams in the league, it’s already the offseason. And it’s pretty much the offseason as far as the media is concerned, as well. Draft coverage is already kicking into high gear, talks about free agency and trades and things of that nature are taking place.
This is the home of speculation, whether founded in sources or otherwise, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have already had a heaping helping of it. We’ve already heard, for example, that the team will hire an offensive line coach before naming an offensive coordinator. That didn’t happen, though we did get a tight ends coach first, so there is that.
The major speculation we’ve heard so far this offseason is that 11-year veteran center Maurkice Pouncey is strongly leaning toward calling it a career, and barring a late change of heart, will shortly announce his retirement. While he didn’t deny that he has considered it, retired former teammate Ramon Foster called it fake news and that no decision has been made.
Pouncey is known to have stated on multiple occasions that he intends to play for as long as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger plays, though that easily could be interpreted as meaning that he doesn’t intend to play beyond Roethlisberger’s career—not necessarily that he will play as long.
According to Jim Colony of 93.7 The Fan, Roethlisberger has been using his time so far this offseason to try to convince Pouncey to return for at least one more season—which of course would imply what we have already been given to understand, which is that Roethlisberger also intends to play for at least one more season.
There isn’t anything substantive here and there’s nothing saying where the information comes from, so take it for whatever it’s worth to you, but it’s reasonable to believe that Pouncey could be weighing the possibility of retirement, and naturally if that is the case, Roethlisberger would be inclined to try to persuade him otherwise.
While it would leave a hole in their starting lineup if he retires, especially when you compare it to their current alternatives, Pouncey’s departure would save the Steelers $8 million in salary cap space in 2021, minus displacement, in a year in which they are bound to be in a tight spot.
Earlier this offseason, veteran tight end Vance McDonald announced his retirement after eight seasons, the last four of which were in Pittsburgh, which shaved $5.2 million off the salary cap prior to displacement. Like Pouncey, McDonald is one of Roethlisberger’s closest teammates, so it was a tough loss for him, as would be the retirement of his longest-tenured teammate and center.