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Steelers' Pouncey unable to play in Super Bowl; Smith out, too

The guessing game is over for two key Pittsburgh Steelers. Center Maurkice Pouncey and defensive end Aaron Smith have been declared out for Super Bowl XLV.

Smith, sidelined since Oct. 24 because of a torn triceps, never came close to playing again in the final days before the Super Bowl matchup with the Green Bay Packers. But the Steelers held out faint hope that Pouncey, the rookie keystone to their offensive line, might be ready after concentrated rehabiliation on his sprained left ankle.

Pouncey didn't appear at practice for the third consecutive day, rehabbing inside the Texas Christian University trainers' room, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said as his team left the session: "He's out."

Asked after the Steelers' two-hour practice inside TCU's Sam Baugh Indoor Practice Facility how Pouncey's absence will affect the Steelers' offensive game plan, Tomlin said: "It won't. Obviously he's a quality player, and how it affects the game, no one knows. But as far as what we do, we have a plan, and that won't change."

Pouncey was injured early in the Steelers' 24-19 victory over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game nearly two weeks ago, and he didn't practice last week either.

Pouncey needed crutches and wore a walking boot on his left foot as he got off the team plane in Dallas on Monday, but he didn't need either during the players' final media session Thursday.

Second-year pro Doug Legursky will make his first NFL start at center in the Super Bowl. Legursky has made four previous starts at guard for the Steelers, but never in the middle of the line, at such a key spot making calls and handling exchanges with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

There were times in the three days of Steelers practices in Fort Worth, Texas, that Legursky looked like a misfit in the land of the giants, at 6-foot-1 and 315 pounds. On average, his four starting linemates are four inches taller and 19 pounds heavier than Legursky.

"The NFL is made up of lots of players like him -- guys who somehow got an opportunity and seized it," Tomlin said. "We're completely confident that he will seize this opportunity and play well. That's why we're not changing what we do."

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said at his morning news conference that his team wasn't focused on whether Pouncey or Legursky would play.

"We're preparing for their offense," McCarthy said. "I don't think their protection schemes or offense will change depending on who plays center.

"Ben Roethlisberger is going to make that offense go."

As has been the case for the past three months, second-year pro Ziggy Hood will man Smith's left defensive end spot on Sunday.

Friday's workout was the Steelers' third consecutive this week inside the TCU practice facility, and the third successive in shells, sweats and helmets. The Steelers, not surprisingly, didn't wear shoulder pads and didn't tackle all week, befitting a team trying to stay healthy and fresh after six months of practices and games.

Tomlin had crowd noise piped in for the first time this week as the Steelers went through their normal Friday routine of goal-line, short-yardage and two-minute plays. The team seemed loose, as it has all week. When Troy Polamalu picked off a Charlie Batch pass near the goal line, fellow safety Ryan Clark chanted: "MVP! MVP! MVP!"

"We've had a very good practice week, very normal," Tomlin said. "We're lucky to have guys who just love football and love one another. It's a special group."

Notes: The Steelers are welcoming team families into the facility Saturday for their final practice of the week, a light walk-through at 11 a.m. ET. On Saturday afternoon, the players and coaches will part with their families and go to a secret hotel for their last night before the game, the same practice the Steelers followed before the Super Bowl against the Arizona Cardinals two years ago in Tampa, Fla. ... The Dallas-Fort Worth area has been hit by several inches of snow and subfreezing temperatures since the Steelers arrived, but Tomlin said it hasn't bothered the team. "We're kind of used to inclement weather," the coach said. "At least from my perspective, it hasn't changed how we've worked at all."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) makes a deep catch as Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White (44) trails on the play during an NFL football game , Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif.

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