Maurkice Pouncey was happy how his injured left ankle had healed and was optimistic his problems were behind him when he returned after a two-game absence to start the regular-season finale in Cleveland.
Less than a week later, the two-time Pro Bowl center is back where he started.
After aggravating his high ankle sprain against the Browns and again in practice Wednesday, Pouncey will not play Sunday in the wild-card playoff game in Denver -- another blow to a team battered by injuries to many key players.
Pouncey is listed as questionable on the team's official injury report, meaning he has a 50-50 chance of playing. But he missed practice for the second day in a row Friday and will not play against the Broncos, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has been told.
The only players listed as out are running back Mewelde Moore (knee) and rookie cornerback Cortez Allen (right shoulder).
It is the second postseason game in a row Pouncey will miss because of the same injury to the same ankle. He did not play in Super Bowl XLV because he sprained his ankle in the AFC championship game against the New York Jets.
Guard Doug Legursky, returning after missing the previous game with a left shoulder separation, will start at center. Former starter Chris Kemoeatu will replace Legursky at left guard.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went through a full practice for the second day in a row and will start, despite having what he said was a setback to his injured left ankle against the Browns.
Since Roethlisberger injured his ankle in the second quarter Dec. 8 against the Browns, the offense has managed two touchdowns and 23 points with their hobbled quarterback in the game. Roethlisberger has passed for 729 yards since then, but he has just one touchdown pass, four interceptions and a passer rating of 68.45.
"Field position has lot to do with that," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "We're gaining yards but we're not scoring in the red zone. Our red zone has really slipped on us. There were times that, in situations, if we could play better in the red zone we'd score more points."
The Steelers have just one touchdown in their past seven trips inside the opposing 20 with the injured Roethlisberger at quarterback. But the offense struggled to score points even before that. The Steelers have scored one offensive touchdown in three of the past six games -- a number that will need to improve if the Steelers get past the Broncos.
"It's playoff time," said receiver Mike Wallace, who finished with a team-high 72 catches and 1,193 yards. "If you're not crisp now, you'll go home. We know what time it is. I don't think we need anybody to tell us where we are.
"We know we have to put up points. Our defense can't keep winning games for us. We have to go out and score some points."
Safety Troy Polamalu, outside linebacker James Harrison and defensive end Brett Keisel returned to practice after being held out Wednesday and Thursday. They are listed as probable, along with Roethlisberger (ankle), outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) and offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (back).
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.