By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey’s history with ankle injuries hasn’t been as promising as the former No. 1 pick’s on-field play.
Pouncey injured his left ankle during the preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons Saturday night, and he isn’t likely to play during the preseason finale Thursday night at Carolina.
He did not practice today, and as far as his readiness for the Steelers regular-season opener Sept. 11 at the Baltimore Ravens, it’s uncertain. Pouncey expects to play then, but he said he would play in the Super Bowl as well.
“This is an injury that is kind of aggravating right now,” Pouncey said. “I keep going through the same process, but hopefully I’ll get through it soon This is probably the third time this has happened, so I probably have to get rid of the situation and move on with it.”
The Steelers also could be without starting left offensive tackle Jonathan Scott, who has been out the past two weeks with a hyperextended right knee. But Scott is trying to work his way back into the lineup for Carolina.
“I’m eager to get healthy, but I never really thought about when or where,” Scott said. “I just want to get back on the field as quick as I can, and I hope it’s this week. But we’ll have to wait to see what happens as we go along.”
Rookie second-round pick Marcus Gilbert started for Scott, and the veteran believed the younger player did pretty well.
“Marcus has really made some strides in his game, and he did some real good things out there (against the Falcons),” Scott said. “I’d guess that he’s working hard to be the best he can be, because that’s the professional way to approach this. He needs all the reps he can get and show improvement with every one.”
One position that appears to be stabilized is right offensive guard where fourth-year pro Tony Hills has started the past two preseason games and expected to continue in that role.
“I definitely think I’ll be back in there after what I showed against the Falcons,” Hills said.
“We’ll see what happens this week, but I’m confident in what I’ve learned, how well I’ve developed so far at right guard and what I did in the games. So, I’m looking forward to showing more this week.”
The Steelers also have been without wideouts Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery the past few weeks. Sanders has not gotten through a full practice since early in training camp due to his sore left foot, and Cotchery missed the past two preseason games after developing some tightness in his hamstring during the opener against the Eagles.
Both hoped to play this week, but it’s still up in the air. Sanders practiced some today, but Cotchery did not.
“Right now I am preparing for Carolina, Sanders said. “We’ll see how it goes. I’m not 100 percent, but we’re going to go off practices this week. I think it’s important for me to play (against Carolina). I need to get into the groove before the big games come. Hopefully everything works out this week.
“The thing I don’t want to do is break it again. I don’t want any setbacks. That’s the key for me. It really doesn’t hurt right now, but we’re trying to get calcium built up. … But I’m going to try to do more in practice and there’s a great possibility that I’ll play Thursday night. I really want to play.”
Both Sanders and Cotchery have gotten the bulk of their workouts in the rehab pool and in riding a stationary bike, but Sanders has been running some the past two weeks. Cotchery was more optimistic than usual, but it didn’t play out that way. He tried to practice and couldn’t do more than individual work.
“Hamstring injuries, they can be real frustrating, and this one’s lingering on a bit more than usual,” Cotchery said before practice. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to run hard, so I’m looking forward to trying more this week. You do a lot of work to get back on the field, as far as this offseason was concerned, and I think I started off pretty well.
“I didn’t have any problems with my back (after offseason surgery), so I was feeling pretty good. And it was going pretty good in camp and the first preseason game. But my hammy really tightened up on me. You really can’t put your finger on what happened, but it got tight and hasn’t responded too well. I don’t know if I’ll be able to play this week, but I really want to.”
Cornerback Keenan Lewis had his chance to shine snatched away by a left knee injury against the Falcons, but he hoped to be back soon as well. He practiced today and so did starter Bryant McFadden, the first time all preseason that he has worked with the first team. Tomlin said both should play Thursday and so should Sanders.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot during this preseason when I’ve gotten an opportunity, and I’d like to think that my coaches feel the same way,” Lewis said. “I feel a lot better today, and I’ll be ready to practice more.
“I thought it was worse than it really was right after I came out, because I was in a lot of pain. But once the swelling started to go down and the pain decreased, I started to feel better about it. And it’s feeling a lot better today.”
Tomlin rested several veterans today: quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, inside linebacker James Farrior, nose tackle Casey Hampton (right elbow), wideout Hines Ward (quad) and safety Troy Polamalu (quad), as well as outside linebacker Chris Carter (hamstring).
Notes: Along with quarterback Byron Leftwich’s surgery, rookie tight end Miguel Chavis (pectoral) also had surgery today.