Peter King, Pro Football Writers of America
Super Bowl XLV
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The guessing game with two key Pittsburgh Steelers for Super Bowl XLV is over: Center Maurkice Pouncey and defensive end Aaron Smith were both declared out for the game by coach Mike Tomlin Friday afternoon.
Smith, out since Oct. 24 with a torn triceps, never got close to playing again here in the final days before the Super Bowl matchup with Green Bay. But the Steelers held out faint hope that the rookie keystone to their offensive line, Pouncey, might be ready with concentrated rehab. Pouncey didn't appear at practice for the third straight day Friday, rehabbing inside the TCU trainers' room, and Tomlin said as his team left the practice: "He's out."
Asked after the Steelers' two-hour Friday practice inside the Sam Baugh Indoor Practice Facility on the snow-swept TCU campus how Pouncey's absence will affect the Steelers' offensive gameplan, Tomlin said: "It won't. 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."
Talk about stepping into a pressurized situation: Undrafted center Doug Legursky from Marshall will make his first NFL start at center in the Super Bowl—and he'll be facing 2009 first-round nose tackle B.J. Raji of the Packers to boot. Legursky has made four previous starts at guard for the Steelers, but never in the middle of the line, at such a key spot making line calls and handling the exchanges with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. There were times in the three days of Steeler practices here at TCU that Legursky looked like a misfit in the land of the giants, at 6-1 and 315. On average, his four starting linemates are four inches taller and 19 pounds heavier than Legursky.
"The NFL is made up of lots of players like him—guys who somehow got an opportunity and seized it," said Tomlin. "We're completely confident that he will seize this opportunity and play well. That's why we're not changing what we do."
As has been the case for the past three months, second-year defensive end Ziggy Hood will man the left end spot for Smith Sunday against Green Bay.
Friday's workout was the third straight this week inside the TCU practice facility for the Steelers, and the third straight in shells, sweats and helmets. The Steelers, not surprisingly, didn't wear shoulder pads and didn't tackle all week, befitting a team trying to stay healthy and fresh after six months of practices and games.
Tomlin had crowd noise piped in for the first time this week as the Steelers went through their normal Friday routine of goal-line, short-yardage and two-minute plays. The team seemed loose, as it has all week. When Troy Polamalu picked off a Charlie Batch pass near the goal line, fellow safety Ryan Clark chanted: "MVP! MVP! MVP!"
"We've had a very good practice week, very normal," said Tomlin. "We're lucky to have guys who just love football and love one another. It's a special group."
The Steelers are welcoming team families into the practice facility Saturday for their final practice of the week, a light walk-through Saturday at 10 a.m. On Saturday afternoon, the players and coaches will part with their families and go to a secret hotel for their last night before the game, the same practice the Steelers followed before the championship game two years ago against Arizona.
NFL 2010 Conference Championships Results
Green Bay Packers 21, CHICAGO BEARS 14
PITTSBURGH STEELERS 24, NY Jets 19
NFL 2010 Divisional Weekend Playoff Results
PITTSBURGH 31, Baltimore 24
CHICAGO 34, Seattle 24
Green Bay 48, ATLANTA 21
New York Jets 28, NEW ENGLAND 21
NFL 2010 Wildcard Weekend Playoff Results
SEATTLE 41, New Orleans 36
Baltimore 30, KANSAS CITY 7
New York Jets 17, INDIANAPOLIS 16
Green Bay 21, PHILADELPHIA 16
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