Foote, Pouncey out adds injury to insult

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Not only did the Steelers lose their season opener to the Tennessee Titans Sunday at Heinz Field, they also lost two prominent starters in the process.

Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey will need surgery to repair his right ACL and MCL after injuring the two knee ligaments just eight plays into the season.

Starting inside linebacker Larry Foote ruptured his biceps in the second half and will also need surgery.

Both are expected to be out for the season.

"Obviously a disappointing opener. Enough misery to go around in all three phases," coach Mike Tomlin said.

Pouncey appeared to be a victim of friendly fire. Right guard David DeCastro went to cut block Sammie Hill on a run play, executing his role in the Steelers zone blocking scheme, but missed and fell onto Pouncey.

The play went for a 2-yard loss and Pouncey was carted off the field. He was seen on crutches after the game but didn't talk to reporters.

Right tackle Marcus Gilbert was nearby when it happened and said he knew it was bad.

"I was in shock," Gilbert said. "Pouncey doesn't go out for anything. He's one of the toughest guys I've ever been around.

"To see him going down like that, it kind of hurts you, you're like, 'Wow, it has to be serious.' He's not going to go down for a nick and not come back in the game. He's going to play through all injuries he might have. Just wrong place, wrong time."

DeCastro was angry after the play and remained upset after the game. His description of the play matched how it looked - he went to cut the defender and got Pouncey instead - but he reserved more comments until he saw the film.

Kelvin Beachum, who was supposed to play tight end, replaced Pouncey and might take over the position. Cody Wallace was listed as the backup center but did not dress.

"The job hasn't been given to me," Beachum said. "We'll find out what's going down [today] after the film."

Beachum played some center at the end of the preseason. He said he feels confident in his ability to play the position but added that "the proof is in the pudding" for the offensive line's performance, which yielded five sacks and allowed ball carriers just 32 yards on 15 carries.

"You got to be a football player at the end of the day," Beachum said. "You're asked - and paid - to be here, you have to find a way to make it work."

As for Foote, he was replaced at inside linebacker late in the game by Kion Wilson, a third-year player who appeared in his ninth NFL game Sunday. His most recent appearance was in 2011 with the Carolina Panthers. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the Steelers' first-round pick this year, is not expected to move to inside linebacker.

"It hurts," safety Ryan Clark said of losing two starters. "I told [player development coordinator] Ray Jackson we're not supposed to cry, but you feel like it. You know what they put in all offseason. You know how much this game means to them. To be gone that early and for the significant amount of time Pouncey will be gone, it's tough to deal with as his friend.

"You know the way [Foote] completes our defense," Clark added. "Losing him will be big just because who is behind them? I just learned their names this week."

Three other notable players suffered less serious injuries: cornerback Cortez Allen sprained his right ankle, running back LaRod Stephens-Howling injured his knee and kicker Shaun Suisham hurt his hamstring before the game.

"He was able to get through that today," Tomlin said of Suisham. "We'll see what that holds."


Nick Veronica: and Twitter @NickVeronica.


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