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Legursky's unflagging dedication pays off

Doug Legursky waited by the phone two years ago, hoping for a call that he wasn't sure would come.

Now it is all but certain that the player known as "Bronco" or simply "Bronc" to his teammates will make his first NFL start Sunday at Tampa Bay.

Right guard Trai Essex, who did not practice again yesterday, is nursing a sprained ankle and his left foot is still in a protective boot. Legursky, meanwhile, is next in line when it comes to the Steelers' battered offensive line.

Assuming Essex doesn't play against the Buccaneers, Legursky will complete another leg in what has been a fairly remarkable journey.

Legursky was released before training camp after signing with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in April 2008. Now, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians joked yesterday, the Steelers can't get rid of him.

"He's just one of those guys that you try to run off all the time and you can't," Arians said. "He comes back every time and plays better. Every time we've put him in any position, whether it's fullback, guard, center, he's succeeded."

His athleticism and strength — the West Virginia native is a former state champion in weightlifting — coupled with the career he had at Marshall make it a surprise that Legursky didn't get an invite to the 2008 NFL scouting combine — and that he had to crash the gates just to make it to the NFL.

But a month into the 2008 season Legursky was still looking for work, and he can only wonder what might have been had former Steelers guard Kendall Simmons not ruptured his Achilles tendon.

The Steelers signed Legursky to their practice squad following the season-ending injury to Simmons, and the 6-foot-1, 323-pounder has been on the rise ever since.

Included in those who Legursky has beaten out on his way to the role of primary backup at the three interior line positions is Kraig Urbik, the Steelers' second pick (third round) in the 2009 draft.

"I followed the road map of (defensive tackle) Chris Hoke, undrafted guy, and this is his 10th year in the league," said Legursky, who is in his second season on the 53-man roster. "He's made a career out of being a hard-nosed guy."

Legursky is not nearly as outgoing as Hoke, but he is not quiet anymore either, reflecting a new comfort level in the Steelers' roster.

Earlier this week, in fact, the guy who once may have garnered votes for the least talkative Steeler played Ping-Pong before practice with perhaps the chattiest one, linebacker Larry Foote.

"All my buddies said the same about me when I came into college; they said I didn't talk to anybody," Legursky said. "I think that's just some respect for the older guys, knowing your place and just staying focused and working hard."

His hard work could pay off again for Legursky on Sunday when he takes yet another step on his unlikely career path.

"He's a great example of how hard work and dedication can give you a great opportunity," quarterback and fellow Marshall alum Byron Leftwich said. "I'm happy for him to see him get an opportunity to play, because I believe he'll do very well."

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