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

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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.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.