FORT WORTH, Texas -- The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) for Super Bowl XLV against the Green Bay Packers, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. Earlier this week the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also deemed Pouncey "highly doubtful" to play.
We covered a lot of bases already on Pouncey's absence with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. But here are some additional thoughts now that we have a definitive word:
This obviously hurts the Steelers in terms of strategy. Pouncey was by far Pittsburgh's best offensive lineman. Since he was key to the middle of the line, I don't expect much from the Steelers' interior running game. Green Bay has a huge advantage with rising star B.J. Raji against Steelers backup center Doug Legursky. So expect a lot of double-teams against Raji and Pittsburgh tailback Rashard Mendenhall to see more carries on the perimeter. Pouncey's injury could also hurt Pittsburgh's running game inside the red zone.
I find it curious that the Steelers listed Pouncey as "questionable" on Friday's injury report. Schefter writes Pouncey and his teammates knew last week that he wasn't going to play. Guard Chris Kemoeatu even spilled the beans, before trying to backtrack on his comments. This likely means there was some gamesmanship involved by Pittsburgh. By not ruling out Pouncey right away, Green Bay had to spend a week of preparation in the event Pouncey returned to the offensive line. My guess is Pittsburgh would have preferred to ride this all the way through and made Pouncey appear to be a game-time decision. But the media got wind of it first.
In addition to the physical challenge, this also will be a big mental test for Legursky, who is now responsible for making all the calls and adjustments on the offensive line. The Packers and defensive coordinator Dom Capers bring a lot of blitzes from all over, including the cornerbacks, and Legursky's job will be to recognize where the pressures are coming from, which is not an easy task.