Steelers' Pouncey has broken bone in left ankle
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey is helped off of the field after being injured in the first quarter of the AFC championship game at Heinz Field Sunday.
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Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey has a broken bone in his left ankle along with the previously announced high ankle sprain, and his status for Super Bowl XLV Feb. 6 remains highly doubtful.
Steelers sources say they have not ruled him out of the game against the Green Bay Packers, but a number of teammates privately remain skeptical that he will be healthy enough to play.
Both Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Pouncey himself described the injury to the rookie Pro Bowler as a high ankle sprain, sustained on the opening drive of their 24-19 victory against the New York Jets in the AFC championship game.
But, after further examination, it was determined Pouncey also has a broken bone in his ankle.
His left foot and ankle were encased in a hard cast that replaced a walking boot. Pouncey has been using crutches to get around but has not been available to the media this week at the team's training facility.
Sources told the Post-Gazette that, while there is a broken bone, damage to the ankle ligaments are the major stumbling block.
Pouncey was injured when Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas fell on the back of his left leg after being shoved by right tackle Flozell Adams. The injury came at the tail end of a Ben Roethlisberger pass to Hines Ward that carried 7 yards to the Jets' 1.
Doug Legursky replaced Pouncey at center, and the Steelers scored on the next play when Rashard Mendenhall ran 1 yard into the end zone.
Legursky played the rest of the game and likely will start in the Super Bowl. His backup would be guard/tackle Trai Essex, who has played just about every position on the offensive line this season.
Pouncey and Adams were the only players on the offensive line to start every game this season.
Replacing Pouncey with Legursky is another in a long line of hurdles the Steelers will have had to overcome. Legursky will be the fourth change at four of the five offensive line positions this year.
Right tackle Willie Colon's Achilles tendon ruptured in June, and the Steelers signed Adams to replace him. Starting left tackle Max Starks was finished for the season after a neck injury Nov. 8, and Jonathan Scott replaced him.
Legursky replaced the injured Essex at right guard for four games, but, ultimately, Ramon Foster beat out Essex for that job.
All certainly is not lost without Pouncey, teammates said, even though he took command of the position from the start of training camp as a rookie and made the Pro Bowl.
"Doug's pretty good, there's really no difference at all," left guard Chris Kemoeatu said.
"I've been [working] with Doug enough, especially last week when he stepped up in there. It's a good thing we get two weeks going into the Super Bowl. We get repetition, being next to each other."
Legursky, who stands 6-1 and weighs 315, is known for his strength and his command of defenses, which teammates say is better than Pouncey's, even though Roethlisberger has raved about the rookie center's ability to call schemes to his linemates before the snap.
Legursky joined the Steelers as an undrafted rookie from Marshall University in 2008. He spent most of that season on the practice squad and then made the roster in 2009 as a backup center and guard.
He has played all three interior positions this season, including those four starts at right guard. He also has been used as a blocking back on some goal-line plays.
"It's really not a big change around for me," Legursky said of bouncing between guard and center
"I feel more a natural center anyway. I played that all through college, all through high school, so that's not a big situation. It's a lot better to practice at one spot throughout the week."
He and Roethlisberger misconnected on two snaps that resulted in fumbles against the Jets, and one caused a safety. They had not done much of that since training camp.
The Packers' defense, like the Steelers, is a 3-4, so Legursky will see a lot of Green Bay nose tackle B.J. Raji, who is 6-2 and supposedly 337 pounds. Legursky said Raji has the quickness of Cleveland's Shaun Rogers and the size of New England's Vince Wilfork.
"He's a great player. He showed just through playoffs alone, he's quick, a big guy making plays for his team.
"He's not just holding up two gaps and stopping the run, he's making some big plays out there."
First Published January 28, 2011 12:00 am