FORT WORTH, Texas - After the Steelers beat the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game two weeks ago, Doug Legursky stood next to Maurkice Pouncey in the team's locker room at Heinz Field.
Legursky had just played three quarters of the game at center in place of Pouncey, who was on crutches and his foot in a big boot. The scene certainly led one to speculate on whether Legursky would be the starting center for Super Bowl XLV.
"I prepare every week, and it won't be any different for me,'' Legursky said. Then, breaking a smile, he said, "I'll just be a little more jacked up on game day.''
The Associated Press
Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and left tackle Jonathan Scott stretch before practice Thursday. Scott now is one of the starters on the Steelers’ patchwork offensive line.
It's looking even more like Legursky will be the starting center for Sunday's Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium against the Green Bay Packers. On Thursday, Pouncey said he was hoping to still play in the game despite an ankle sprain that had him miss another day of practice, but Legursky said he will be ready to go either way.
"Whenever somebody goes down, the next person that steps up, there can't be any drop-off,'' Legursky said. "That is something that Coach [Mike] Tomlin preaches all the time, and being in the backup position, especially in multiple roles, you have to be ready at any time to go in and not miss a beat.''
Today is the key day for Pouncey. If he doesn't practice, he almost certainly won't play on Sunday. He listed himself as 75 percent healthy on Thursday, but he hasn't done any running yet and Tomlin's tone wasn't as upbeat when asked about Pouncey's chances for playing.
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Ben Roethlisberger's on-field and off-field exploits have left us all shaking our heads. With the Steelers quarterback now perched on destiny's doorstep, a panel of guest bloggers reflects on those mixed emotions. Please visit Ray Eckenrode's "15 Minutes" blog at www.altoonamirror.com to read more.
Going up against Green Bay nose tackle B.J. Raji won't be an easy task, even if Pouncey was 100 percent healthy.
"The biggest issue is the swelling,'' Pouncey said. "It's not all out yet, and I'm trying to get all the rotation back into my ankle. It's been going good.''
The Steelers have been re-organizing the offensive line all season, so it shouldn't be much of a problem if the need arises for a change Sunday.
The Steelers' starting line heading into training camp included left tackle Max Starks, left guard Chris Kemoeatu, center Justin Hartwig, right guard Trai Essex and right tackle Willie Colon.
Only Kemoeatu remains in the starting lineup. In fact, Kemoeatu is the only remaining starter on the line from the Steelers' last Super Bowl victory just two seasons ago.
The other starters include virtually no-name left tackle Jonathan Scott and right guard Ramon Foster, along with veteran free-agent pickup Flozell Adams at right tackle and Pouncey.
The patchwork offensive line, coached by first-year Steelers assistant Sean Kugler, is not the team's strength. In official offensive line rankings by the NFL, the Steelers' line ranked 25th out of 32 during the regular season and gave up 43 sacks.
But a good portion of those sacks could be attributed to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger holding on to the ball for too long, and the linemen did help the Steelers average 4.1 yards per rushing play.
The run blocking may hold the key to the Steelers' success against the Packers, who were ranked 24th in the NFL in run defense.
As was two years ago when the Steelers won the Super Bowl, this year's line isn't so much a collection of great talent, but a collection of guys on a winning team who get the job done together.
"The experience of being around guys who want to win, know how to win and show how you go out and go about winning, it has definitely helped me as a player,'' said Scott, who added that the linemen get together to play cards or shoot pool as long there is food involved.
The linemen showed how much of a bond they have when they all wore Adams' Michigan State jersey on the trip to Dallas. That bond will need to be further strengthened if Pouncey can't go on Sunday.
"This offensive line reminds me of the line I was on at [the University of] Texas when we won the national championship,'' Scott said. "It's a close-knit group, and we weren't considered a great offensive line in Texas, but we came out with a 'W.' If you beat the best, then you are the best.''