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12-16-2011, 05:45 AM
Essex may get start at left guard for Steelers

By Scott Brown
Friday, December 16, 2011

The other high-ankle sprain the Steelers are dealing with could result in Trai Essex starting at left guard Monday night in San Francisco.

Center Maurkice Pouncey has yet to practice this week, and if he is unable to play, Doug Legursky will move from left guard to center. If that happens, Essex, not Chris Kemoeatu, would get the nod at left guard.

Kemoeatu entered the season as the incumbent at left guard, and he has started seven games there in 2011. But the seventh-year veteran has been hampered by injuries, and he had three penalties called on him in the Steelers' 14-3 win over the Browns last Thursday.

"The effort's always there," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said of Kemoeatu. "The penalties you've just got to get rid of."

Pouncey's status is in question after he left the Browns game in the second quarter with a sprained left ankle. The same injury kept Pouncey out of the Super Bowl last season.

"I couldn't walk in the Super Bowl," Pouncey said Thursday. "If I can go Monday, I'm going."

>> Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley practiced Thursday, and the Steelers didn't list him on their injury report, even though he has only played part of one game since suffering a hamstring injury Oct. 30. In addition to Pouncey and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (ankle), strong safety Troy Polamalu (hamstring), wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (foot), right tackle Marcus Gilbert (illness) and outside linebacker Chris Carter (hamstring) didn't practice yesterday. Wide receiver Arnaz Battle (hamstring) and cornerback Curtis Brown (knee) were limited participants.

>> Roethlisberger, once a player in the Big 33 Football Classic, is now the honorary chairman for next summer's contest, the Big 22 Scholarship Foundation announced. In the 2000 edition of the 55-year-old series between Pennsylvania and Ohio, Roethlisberger was a member of the Ohio team that fell, 31-14.

"It was an honor for me to play in the Big 33 Classic, given the tradition of the game and legacy of great players," Roethlisberger said in a release. "I am excited to return now as the honorary chairman, to be involved again in something truly special."

The game will be played at 7 p.m. June 16.

>> Nose tackle Chris Hoke, who's out for the season, had successful neck surgery Wednesday.

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

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