By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers generally don’t have a lot of fanfare when they make a change, so it should be no surprise that Doug Legursky’s move to starting right guard was barely mentioned this week.
While the third-year pro got some first-team reps during practice Monday, it wasn’t official that Legursky would be the starter during the pre-season finale with the Carolina Panthers Thursday night at 8 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. until the pre-game media notes package was completed.
Legursky also started at right guard during Tuesday afternoon’s practice, and according to several players he will be the season-opening starter there when the Steelers face the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md. Legursky was non-committal.
“We’ll see,” Legursky said. “I don’t know, but we’ll see.”
One reason to believe the Steelers are serious about leaving Legursky at right guard is that veteran Trai Essex has been taking first-team reps at center while Maurkice Pouncey (left ankle) is out. Rookie Colin Miller and first-year player John Malecki, a Pitt product, are the backups.
So, it appears that undrafted free-agent Legursky has bucked the odds once again for the Steelers.
“It’s kind of nice to have everybody think that you’re not going to make it, but at the end of the day you get the job done,” Legursky said. “So, I guess you could say it’s enjoyable to prove people wrong. I don’t know why, but everybody has their idea what a prototype offensive lineman might be.
“(That’s) maybe 6-4 or 6-5 and 310 (pounds), whatever it might be for each individual team. But no matter how tall you are or how big you are if you can play, then you can play. And I think that’s what I’ve shown the coaches here. So, hopefully, I’ll keep showing them what I can do.”
In several conversations with Tony Hills, who started the past two preseason games at right guard, the fourth-year player appeared to be overconfident about his ability and his chances to open the season as the starter.
Third-year pro Ramon Foster, who started the final seven regular-season games, two playoff contests and the Super Bowl at right guard, took a different approach when asked why he fell out of favor from the coaching staff.
“You don’t want to ask what the deal is because if you do that they might think that you’re bitter, and I’m not,” Foster said. “Sure, I’d like to know specifically what I did so,
” wrong that I’m not even in the top three at right guard. But I know that things happen, like all the injuries last season, and I could get another shot.
“I know that I have to make sure I take advantage of it the next time, but the thing is, I’m really proud of Doug. He’s worked so hard and had to take reps at both center and guard, so he hasn’t had a lot of time this spot. But he’s done real well, and I’m very supportive of all the guys on our offensive line.”
Hills and Essex are listed as Legursky’s backups at right guard, while Foster and rookie sixth-round draft pick Keith Williams are the backups to Chris Kemoeatu at left guard. Foster started one game at left guard, while Kemoeatu was out last year. Essex started the opening two games at right guard, but Legursky followed with four straight starts. Essex had three, and Foster finished the year.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said today that Ben Roethlisberger would not play at Carolina. Veteran Charlie Batch will start, while Dennis Dixon is the backup. He would not commit to how long each will play.
Along with Roethlisberger, Tomlin noted that cornerback Ike Taylor (left thumb), outside linebacker Chris Carter (hamstring) and wideout Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring) have been ruled out this week.
Other players could miss the game, including ILB James Farrior, SS Troy Polamalu (quad), NT Casey Hampton (right elbow), CB Bryant McFadden, Pouncey (left ankle) and maybe a few others like rookie CB Cortez Allen and second-year WR Emmanuel Sanders (left foot).
Notes: Roethlisberger noted that while the first-team offense probably won’t get much action as a group against the Panthers, they’re already planning for the season-opener at Baltimore and looking ahead to the regular season.