PITTSBURGH (AP) — Maurkice Pouncey limped through the Pittsburgh Steelers practice facility on Monday, the torn ligaments in his knee wrapped in bandages and his season over. The three-time Pro Bowl center remained in high spirits — as always — though he might have been one of the few in the building.
The long road back for Pouncey will begin later this week when he undergoes surgery. The same for linebacker Larry Foote, who is also done for the year after rupturing his right biceps while trying to tackle Tennessee's Chris Johnson in the fourth quarter of a 16-9 loss.
For a team that preaches "next man up" when faced with adversity, at the moment "next man left" might be more appropriate.
While the Steelers will have somebody snap the ball to Ben Roethlisberger next Monday when they play at Cincinnati, whoever it is will be a significant downgrade over a player considered one of the NFL's elite.
Kelvin Beachum filled in after Pouncey was carted off the field eight plays into the season, the first time in Beachum's football career he's worked at center during an actual game. Though Beachum is arguably the most versatile player left on the line — he saw time at both tackle and guard during the preseason — the Steelers signed veteran Fernando Velasco to a one-year on Monday according to agent Brian Ayrault.
The 28-year-old Velasco started 16 games for Tennessee last season, including 13 at center. He'll be given every opportunity to take over for Pouncey on a line that will try to regroup without its emotional leader.
"It's going to be tough," running back Isaac Redman said. "Pouncey is the heart of our offensive line. We've got to have guys step up."
Even if Redman isn't one of them. Handed the starting job out of camp after rookie Le'Veon Bell sprained his right foot, Redman fumbled twice — including once into the end zone — and managed just nine yards on eight carries.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin grew so frustrated he sent third-down back LaRod Stephens-Howling into the game, only to have the return specialist tear the ACL in his knee. Like Pouncey, Stephens-Howling is done for the year.
Searching for healthy bodies, the Steelers re-signed Jonathan Dwyer on Monday. Dwyer led Pittsburgh with 623 yards rushing in 2012 before being cut when the roster was trimmed to 53 players. He wasn't picked up after being waived and there appeared to be no hard feelings as he walked into the team's complex.
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