Pouncey hurt but hopeful; Legursky ready

Maurkice Pouncey might not be thinking logically, but he's hopeful that his ankle will heal in time for the Super Bowl. If not, "a tough S.O.B." will be ready.

PITTSBURGH – Maurkice Pouncey ambled slowly past the media room Wednesday on crutches and with a brand new plaster cast on his left ankle.

Pouncey is the Steelers' best rookie, probably their best offensive lineman, and he injured the ankle near the end of the Steelers' long opening drive Sunday in the AFC Championship Game.

Doctors told Pouncey it's a high sprain and put him in the hard cast to restrict movement.

The gung-ho rookie said after the game that he'd be back in three days.

He was reminded that Wednesday was Day Three.

"Day Three already?" he said with a smile. "Maybe four then."

"It's going to be a big pain tolerance thing," said veteran lineman Trai Essex. "A high ankle sprain is nothing to play with. Some guys recover faster than others. Pounce has been hurt a couple times this year but came back fast. It's all about how fast he's going to heal this time around, how severe the injury actually was."

No one with real knowledge of the injury was talking. Pouncey – like Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu before him – didn't want to get into details about his injury and skipped both of the locker-room media sessions that sandwiched Wednesday's practice.

Essex was the No. 2 center during the workout behind Doug Legursky.

Legursky finished Sunday's game at center and played well. During his 3½ quarters, the Steelers rushed for 121 yards on 34 carries (3.6 avg.), even though the Jets knew the Steelers would run the ball with their big, early lead.

Legursky accepted blame for the fumbled snap that resulted in a Jets safety – "I was just trying to get my hands on the guy and I short-armed the snap" – but said he otherwise played well.

"Overall, yes," he said. "There were a few things here and there I could've done better."

Legursky is a quiet West Virginian (Beckley) who was not only a weightlifting record-holder at Marshall University but a three-year All-Conference USA center.

The 6-1, 323-pounder signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2008 and was on the practice squad for their Super Bowl run that season. Legursky made the team in 2009 and played 8 games at right guard and goal-line fullback.

This season Legursky has started four games at right guard and played in every other game at both guard spots and fullback. His stint Sunday was the first of any substance at his natural center position since he entered the league.

"Getting in there at center and having my feet settled and being able to make some calls and play my game felt pretty good last week," he said. "If Pouncey's not ready to go, it'll be fun this week."

If Pouncey's not ready to go, Legursky will go up against 337-pound Green Bay nose tackle B.J. Raji in the Super Bowl. The ninth overall pick of the 2009 draft, Raji came on strong down the stretch this season, and on Sunday dropped into zone blitz coverage, intercepted a pass and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown.

"I like Raji's game a lot," said Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton. "He's going to be the next good nose tackle."

But Hampton has watched Legursky grow. He realizes the Steelers will be in good hands if Pouncey can't play.

"No question. Legursky can get it done," Hampton said. "I've said all along if Legursky was two inches taller he'd be starting somewhere. He plays big. He can get it done. I like Legursky."

"I think Doug will make it through fine," said Essex. "He's a tough S.O.B."

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