Chris Kemoeatu, who has started 17 of 18 games next to center Maurkice Pouncey this season, isn't optimistic his Pittsburgh Steelers linemate can recover from a high ankle sprain and play in Super Bowl XLV next week.
"It's definitely a huge loss," Kemoeatu, the Steelers' left guard, said Wednesday. "We all know what Maurkice brings to the table. He's everything you'd want a center to be, he's everywhere on the field. We've just got to let that be motivation and go out there and ball out."
Pouncey, a rookie who hasn't missed a game this season, wore a hard cast over his injured left ankle Wednesday morning and moved around gingerly on crutches at the Steelers' facility. He didn't participate in practice.
"He's definitely our tone-setter," said right tackle Willie Colon, who has missed the entire season with an Achilles' tendon injury. "For a kid so young, he's extremely mature. He prepares as if he were a vet for 12 years. ... Pouncey's kind of the blueprint for how we want our linemen to play and where we want them to be. It's gonna be a tough loss."
The Steelers confirmed that X-rays on Pouncey's ankle came back negative, meaning he didn't suffer any broken bones. Casting an ankle can be a procedural step to immobilize the leg and keep Pouncey from moving around.
Pouncey, a Pro Bowl pick in his first NFL season, sprained the ankle during Sunday's AFC title game victory over the Jets, coming out in the first half and watching the second half while on crutches. He said after the game that the injury was similar to one he had in his right ankle, and played through, earlier in the season.
"I had the same injury before on my other ankle, and I know how to attack it. I know how to approach things," Pouncey told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Sunday.
"I know in my heart that I'm playing in that game," Pouncey told the Tribune-Review on Sunday.
Pouncey had to be helped off the field during the first quarter after Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas was pushed back into him. Thomas rolled over the back of Pouncey's leg on a 7-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Hines Ward.
Pouncey didn't put weight on the ankle as he hopped off the field with the aid of two trainers. He later was carted to the locker room, where CBS cameras showed him walking with the aid of crutches.
Doug Legursky replaced Pouncey and played well, except for a bad center-quarterback exchange that led to a Jets safety in the fourth quarter.
"We believe in Doug," Kemoeatu said Wednesday. "Obviously, Doug stepped up huge when Maurkice got hurt last week."
Colon concurred, saying: "We got a lot of trust in Doug Legursky. We know he's going to step in and do a great job."
Pouncey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after the game that he knew he wouldn't return to the game after the injury.
"It was the worst pain ever," he said, adding that he suffered a similar injury as a sophomore at the University of Florida but returned to play the next game.
Notes: Steelers DE Aaron Smith, who hasn't played since Week 7 because of a triceps injury, was limited in practice Wednesday. ... Safeties Will Allen (knee) and Troy Polamalu (Achilles), CB Bryant McFadden (abdomen), WR Emmanuel Sanders (foot) and OT Jonathan Scott (ribs) didn't practice.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.