Early Pouncey Return Possible for Steelers

The injury news never ends, but Thursday the Steelers received some good news when Maurkice Pouncey returned to practice. He hopes to be able to help the patchwork offensive line Sunday night.

PITTSBURGH – Ben Roethlisberger slipped on his plant foot while dropping back to pass during Thursday's practice and he later left the field with a sore ankle.

Roethlisberger's expected to be fine for Sunday night's game in Cincinnati, so the more significant injury news for the Steelers yesterday was the team's backup center.

Maurkice Pouncey returned from a sprained MCL to take some reps with the first team on Thursday. And he moved well enough to put himself into serious consideration for Sunday's game.

"I hope," said Pouncey when asked if he would rise up the depth chart and resume his place as the starter Sunday.

"But I can't play if I can't start," he said with a laugh.

Pouncey's return would not only provide stability to a line that'll include rookie right tackle Mike Adams in his first career start, but would give a necessary bump to the overall numbers.

Counting the injured-and-out Marcus Gilbert and the questionable Pouncey, the Steelers have only eight offensive linemen on the roster. So if Pouncey can't play, the No. 1 backup would be rookie 7-d draft pick Kelvin Beachum, a small tackle whose future is most likely inside at guard.

The next backup would likely become John Malecki, the former Pitt right guard who's been part of the Steelers' practice squad the past two seasons. If Malecki's to become activated from the practice squad, it would most likely occur Saturday.

"He was a journeyman but now he's damn important," said right guard Ramon Foster. "He's worked his butt off. I commend him. This is a place of opportunity, and I think if he's activated he'll be good."

Foster is also excited about what awaits Adams, the second-round pick from Ohio State.

"I think he's ready," Foster said. "He's taking this week a lot more seriously than he has in the past when he's been a backup. He's been on his details and asking a LOT of questions. Our communication's gotten good. I think, actually, he'll have a really good game."

Foster would know. He played next to Gilbert last season when the then-rookie went through his NFL baptism.

"I've been telling Mike all week ‘if we do this, you've got to do that,' just communicating with him like I did with Gilbert in his rookie year," Foster said. "Communication's going to be big. It's going to be loud there, a late night game. He's going back to Ohio where he played in college. I've got to keep him focused and I will."

Of course, if Pouncey can't play center, veteran backup Doug Legursky will. The left side remains intact with Max Starks and Willie Colon at tackle and guard, respectively.

As for the quarterback, Roethlisberger followed his slip-and-fall by taking the remainder of his reps during the middle scrimmage session. He walked gingerly from the field with trainer John Norwig about 30 minutes later.

"I think he'll be OK," said Roethlisberger's replacement Byron Leftwich.

NOTES – After missing Wednesday's practice with a foot injury, ILB Lawrence Timmons returned Thursday without any noticeable loss of mobility. In fact, he dropped back into coverage and made a difficult interception during team scrimmage. … Running backs Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles') and Isaac Redman (ankle) missed another practice, leaving the bulk of the work to Baron Batch and Jonathan Dwyer. … OLB Chris Carter (hamstring) also missed practice, along with Gilbert and Troy Polamalu, who've already been ruled out.

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