POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 5, 2011
FORT WORTH, Texas » The Pittsburgh Steelers took a hit, albeit one they knew they might have to take, with the news yesterday that center Maurkice Pouncey, who started all 16 regular-season games as well as Pittsburgh's two playoff wins, had been ruled out for Super Bowl XLV.
Defensive end Aaron Smith will also miss the game. Smith has been out since Oct. 24 with a torn triceps. Second-year defensive end Ziggy Hood will continue in Smith's spot. Pouncey suffered a high-ankle sprain during the Steelers' AFC Championship victory over the New York Jets two weeks ago.
"He's out," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin told reporters outside the team's practice facility yesterday afternoon at TCU.
Pouncey's injury opens the door for second-year offensive lineman Doug Legursky, who will make his first NFL start at center.
Legursky logged time at guard this season, making four starts, and filled in for Pouncey at center in the AFC title game.
He will line up across from Green Bay nose tackle B.J. Raji, who was key to the Packers' success down the stretch and made the decisive play in the NFC Championship Game with an interception return for touchdown.
"It won't," Tomlin said when asked how Pouncey's absence will affect Pittsburgh's game plan. "Obviously he's a quality player, and how it affects the game, no one knows. But as far as what we do, we have a plan and that won't change."
Heading into yesterday, the Steelers still held out hope on Pouncey's chances of being available tomorrow.
Tomlin and the training staff wanted to see what the rookie could do in the team's final practice before making a decision.
As for their practice, the Steelers didn't wear shoulder pads or hit all week, and had crowd noise piped in for the first time yesterday.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers — STEELERS: OUT: C Maurkice Pouncey (ankle), DE Aaron Smith (triceps). PACKERS: QUESTIONABLE: LB Erik Walden (ankle). PROBABLE: T Chad Clifton (knees), WR Donald Driver (quadriceps), G Jason Spitz (calf), LB Frank Zombo (knee).