Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey felt slighted when he was recently called “overrated” and named to an NFL All-Average Team. He went on to fire back at that same NFL analyst, who also said it would be “an injustice” when Pouncey is elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Today, Pouncey has reason to feel better, having been identified by ESPN as one of the NFL’s Top 10 interior offensive linemen entering 2020. ESPN compiled its rankings by querying more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players (asking them to name their best 10 to 15 players at a position), then “compiled the results and ranked candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, interviews and research.”
Maurkice Pouncey No. 10 in the NFL
Pouncey ranked No. 10 on the list, with one AFC executive saying, “He’s still the best [center] and it’s not even close.”
One defensive assistant echoed that thought, saying, “He’s still one of the best, but I’m curious to see how he holds up this year physically. He’s a guy you want on your team nine times out of 10.”
David DeCastro No. 4 in the NFL
Meanwhile, Steelers guard David DeCastro also placed on the list, coming in at No. 4, just ahead of Zack Martin (Dallas Cowboys, No. 2) and Brandon Scherff (No. 3, Washington Redskins).
“It’s hard to argue with DeCastro’s career after two All-Pro teams and five Pro Bowls,” advises ESPN. “Last season he wasn’t considered as dominant, but the Steelers’ sagging offense after the loss of Ben Roethlisberger partly contributed.”
“He’s still athletic, big, long arms, tough,” said one defensive assistant coach. “He and Pouncey are a good combo. He might have lost a half-step but he’s still high in that second tier of guards.”
Only one other team placed two players on the list, that being the Indianapolis Colts, who had guard Quenton Nelson topping the table and center Ryan Kelly at No. 9.
Pittsburgh’s Future on the Interior Offensive Line
However, the ranking is a reminder that Pouncey and DeCastro are both on the wrong side of 30 and could be replaced come 2022, when they are both expected to hit unrestricted free agency.
According to OvertheCap.com, Pouncey’s base salary in 2020 will be $1,050,000, and he will count $7,525,000 against the cap this season. Next year—the last year of a contract extension he signed in 2019—he’s scheduled to be paid a salary of $8 million and count $14.475 million against the salary cap.
DeCastro will earn base salaries of $8.75 million in each of the next two seasons, but his cap number declines to $10,447,500 in 2021 after counting $13,647,500 this season.
The Steelers added offensive guard Kevin Dotson in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, hoping he’s part of a youth movement on the interior of the offensive line. The Steelers also signed Stefen Wisniewski in free agency; Wisniewski has experience playing both center and guard.
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