'Nugget' could be hidden gem for Steelers

LATROBE, Pa. -- Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey blurted it out during an organized team activity and the nickname “Chicken nugget” stuck to rookie offensive lineman Chris Elkins.

Elkins isn’t the biggest guy compared to other Pittsburgh Steelers offensive linemen even though he is listed at 6-foot-4, 300 pounds.

Hence the nickname.

“I’m 6-4,” Pouncey said, “so there’s no way he’s 6-4.”

Elkins has stood tall during the first part of training camp, holding his own in pass-rushing drills and earning praise from his teammates, especially Pouncey.

“I like Chicken nugget,” Pouncey said. “He goes out there and busts his butt every day. He’s really quick and he has great leverage. I’m pulling for him.”

Elkins is one of a handful of Pittsburgh-area players who are trying to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. And, like most of them, he will have to do it the hard way -- by beating out accomplished veterans or players who were drafted.

Elkins played at Beaver Falls High School, the alma mater of Joe Namath, and later started 38 games at Youngstown State. He has been playing guard and center as he tries to follow the path of Doug Legursky, who played both positions after making the Steelers in 2009 as an undrafted free agent.

Just having an opportunity to play his way onto his hometown team is enough to keep Elkins plugging through the grind of camp.

“It’s amazing, a dream come true,” Elkins said. “I’m just trying to keep it going.”

He would, in fact, love nothing more than to have the same staying power as his nickname.

“At first it was just an O-line thing,” Elkins said of the moniker. “Now everybody calls me that.”