Super Bowl 2011: Can Doug Legursky Fill Maurkice Pouncey's Shoes For Steelers?
Super Bowl 2011 will feature a backup slotting in to a crucial position for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as their Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey was officially ruled out of Super Bowl XLV with a high ankle sprain he suffered during the AFC Championship game against the New York Jets.
Coach Mike Tomlin made the center's status official on Friday, after a week of will he-won't he speculation about Pouncey, who seemed optimistic about playing at the time of the injury and leading up to the game. Now the focus shifts to who replaces Pouncey along the offensive line, and that duty falls to an undrafted free agent in his second year out of Marshall: Doug Legursky.
Legursky will be making his first NFL start in the league's biggest game, and will be doing so at a position that holds vital importance for Pittsburgh's chances on offense. Arguably the Green Bay Packers' hottest defensive player, nose tackle B.J. Raji, will be lining up directly across from the Steelers' center, so Legursky has quite the challenge in front of him.
His performance in relief of Pouncey against the Jets included two botched exchanges, one that occurred while Pittsburgh was deep in their own end and resulted in a safety. Other than that, though, Legursky lived up to the challenge.
But his biggest challenge goes down tomorrow night, as he'll have his hands full with Raji and dynamic Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.
Legursky's story is an impressive one. He went undrafted in 2008, but was released twice by the team that year before the regular season even began. Then in 2009, as Legursky was apparently trying out for a spot in the Arena League, the Steelers called again, and this time it stuck and he ended up on their roster.
He hasn't looked back since, becoming a versatile contributor along the offensive line. Legursky started four games at right guard this year, and now will slide in at center on the biggest stage imaginable.
I don't think he'll be able to totally shut down Raji and Matthews from bringing pressure up the middle, but Legursky has had such an uphill climb to even get into the position of starting for an NFL team that I don't think he'll totally flop and embarrass himself in Super Bowl XLV.
Still, his performance will go a long way towards deciding the fate of the Steelers. If he can successfully replicate some of Pouncey's solid and steady play in the middle of the o-line, the Steelers will have a great chance of knocking off Green Bay. If not? Big Ben might be scrambling out of the pocket quite a bit more than he'd like, for better or worse.
For more on the Super Bowl, check out Super Bowl XLV: 10 Reasons Why This Could Be The Best Super Bowl Ever.
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