Chris Hoke and Trai Essex Back From Injury After Steelers Bye, Doug Legursky Could Challenge For Starting Gig

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Chris Hoke and Trai Essex Back From Injury After Steelers Bye, Doug Legursky Could Challenge For Starting Gig

According to the Trib, nose tackle Chris Hoke and right guard Trai Essex should both return from injury in time for Pittsburgh's home matchup with the Cleveland Browns in Week 6. Essex had to leave Week 2's matchup against the Tennessee Titans after spraining his ankle. Hoke suffered a sprained knee and sat out of last week's loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

The bye comes at the perfect time for the Steelers, who are nursing their share of such bumps and bruises - not to mention the task of reintegrating quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into the offense and the locker room.

Obviously, Hoke is a depth player, a rotation guy on the defensive line; starter Casey Hampton should be fully healthy after the bye, as well. The real story here is the sudden position battle between Essex and Doug Legursky, the undrafted center-turned-guard who performed admirably in Essex's absence. Here's Essex, when asked about competing for his job:

I'm going to come in as if I'm starting. I'd like to think you don't lose your starting job to injury.

I suppose I'd like to think that, too. But if Essex loses his starting role to Legursky, it won't be solely because of injury. Essex's grasp on the starting job was never strong in the first place. You'll remember that in the preseason, the coaching staff was looking to start first-rounder Maurkice Pouncey at right guard before the rookie proved capable of handling center duties. If Legursky wins the job outright, it will be because Essex's injury provided a showcase for a player who was superior all along.


Dennis Dixon Placed On Injured Reserve

A disappointing season for quarterback Dennis Dixon just got worse, as the Steelers placed him on injured reserve. He’ll be out for the rest of the season. With the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger for the first four weeks of the season, Dixon had a chance to establish himself as a viable NFL starting quarterback, and perhaps earn a trade to a team who needed one. Instead, he went down with a torn meniscus, guaranteeing that he’d be out until after Roethlisberger got back. It was originally reported that he’d be out for four to six weeks, but instead he’s done until next year.


Dixon To Begin Rehabilitation Process After Surgery On Wednesday

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee on Wednesday. According to ESPN’s NFL insider Adam Scheffer, Dixon is expected to be out for at least six weeks while he recovers and rehabilitates from the injury. Thankfully the surgery seems to have been a success. Steeler Nation wishes Dixon a full and speedy recovery!


Max Starks Will Play Against the Buccaneers In Week 3

No matter who starts on Sunday in Dennis Dixon’s stead — Byron Leftwich who is trying to quickly rehab an injured knee, or old-timer Charlie Batch, who received very few first-team reps this offseason — the offense will get a much-needed shot in the arm with the return of their starting left tackle, Max Starks.

Starks suffered a low ankle sprain that was originally expected to keep him out through the team’s Week 5 bye, however, the tackle’s leg has healed much more quickly than the team could have hoped for.


Dixon To Undergo Surgery To Repair Torn Meniscus, Out Indefnitely

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon had been hoping that his knee injury wasn’t too serious and that he might be able to play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Sunday. It wasn’t meant to be. Dixon will undergo surgery on Wednesday to repair the torn meniscus in his left knee, and consequently is expected to miss the remainder of the 2010 season.

Terrible news for the young man, as it was plainly obvious how badly he wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to play. The Steelers now turn to either Charlie Batch or recently re-signed Byron Leftwich to lead them in Week 3. Leftwich, of course, is coming off a knee injury of his own, sustained during the team’s last preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. Leftwich is practicing all week, but how his knee holds up will go a long way towards determining who will line up under center to begin the game according to head coach Mike Tomlin.

“You’ve got to say Charlie’s in the pole position because he’s got a clean bill of health,” Tomlin said Tuesday.

Stay tuned for more updates and analysis all week here and on Behind the Steel Curtain.


Steelers Won't Sign Extra Quarterback Despite Dennis Dixon Injury

The Post-Gazette reports that the Steelers will not sign another quarterback despite only having one healthy one left (Charlie Batch). The Steelers have kicked the tires on Levi Brown and former WVU quarterback Jarrett Brown, but are unlikely to sign either. This suggests the team is confident that Byron Leftwich will be healthy enough to play if something happens to Batch on Sunday against the Bucs.

Pete Wilmoth has more on the Steelers’ quarterback situation here.

The P-G also reports that Max Starks and Casey Hampton are likely to play against Tampa Bay.


Two Key Veterans To Sit Out Sunday

All signs pointed to this throughout the week, but it’s still discouraging to receive confirmation that a pair of veterans will miss the Pittsburgh Steelers’ game on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. Offensive tackle Max Starks will sit this one out with an ankle sprained suffered last Sunday against the Falcons. Casey Hampton, who also left last Sunday’s game, is sidelined with a hamstring injury that kept him out of practice all week.

Hopefully the two key players will be ready to go next week when the Steelers travel to Tampa Bay to take on Buccaneers.


Notable Steelers Players Miss Thursday Practice

The following players sat out Thursday’s practice session:

OT Max Starks (ankle)
NT Casey Hampton (hamstring)
WR Emmanuel Sanders (quadricep)
OLB Jason Worilds (shoulder)
CB Bryan McFadden (groin)

I previously had not read anything about McFadden being dinged up. After his 11 tackle performance against the Falcons, it would be a shame if he were unable to play or were slowed down considerably. According to Ken Laird, though, the team might just be giving the veteran cornerback an extra day off this week in hopes of him being as close to full strength as possible come Sunday.


Leftwich Makes Successful Return To Practice Field

When Byron Leftwich left the field with an MCL injury during the Pittsburgh Steelers’ final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, it appeared as if he’d likely be out for at least a month. As it turns out, Leftwich has been progressing nicely since then. So nicely, in fact, that he returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis.

Leftwich, who got a second opinion on his knee after hurting it in the Steelers’ final preseason game, said it is too early to tell if he will be healthy enough to dress Sunday against the Titans.

“I feel like I heal fast, but I don’t know that I’m that fast of a healer,” Leftwich said, “but we’ll see.”

Regardless of whether it’s not until Week 3 that Leftwich is available to play if necessary, it’s promising news that he’s back in action so quickly. Leftiwch is locker room gold, so it will be beneficial to have him back in the fold moving forward, regardless of whether he’s playing on Sundays.


Pittsburgh Steelers Injury Report

Some good news on the injury front for the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. During Sunday's 15-9 overtime win agianst the Atlanta Falcons, nose tackle Casey Hampton and left tackle Max Starks were both forced to the sidelines in-game with injuries. Hampton injured his hamstring and changed into street clothes for the second half, while Starks had to be helped off the field with what appeared to be a high-ankle sprain. Thankfully, Starks suffered a low-ankle sprain rather than the more painful and nagging high variety according to Mike Tomlin during his press conference today.

Tomlin even said that Starks might return to practice as early as late this week. Tomlin also said that Hampton's hamstring injury wasn't serious, and that he too would be back on the practice field later this week. I believe that more than I do Tomlin's optimism about Starks. Regardless of how high or low the sprain occurred, Starks has to be in a lot of pain this week. I can't imagine him playing under any circumstance this week, whereas it's quite possible we'll see 'Big Snack' play against the Titans on Sunday.

One other noteworthy item from Tomlin's presser: Byron Leftwich is apparently off to a nice start with his rehabilitation. Leftwich of course injured the MCL in his right knee during the team's final preseason game. He was expected to be shelved for at least a month, if not more. But from the sound of it, Leftwich might also be back at practice this week. Tomlin mentioned that Dixon was 'the guy' for this coming weekend's game, but if he were to struggle and Leftwich were to continue healing quickly, who knows what might happen next week around this time. We could be talking about the same type of QB controversy that we were throughout the late spring and summer months. Hopefully though Dixon just steps up and performs admirably on the road in Nashville come Sunday.

Stay tuned for more news and notes on the injury front here and on Behind the Steel Curtain as they become available.

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