Our Ron Lippock caught up with former Steelers offensive lineman and Super Bowl XLIII champion Doug Legursky, who played for the team from 2008-12.
First, can you let me know what you’ve been doing with yourself since you retired from the NFL?
After football, I took on a harder job. I’m a stay-at-home dad with three kids. I went from one extreme — the physical side of football — to the mental side as a stay-at-home-dad.
You also coached a bit. Something you want to continue?
I just did that a bit to help out, but my schedule wouldn’t work out with my wife’s career. It was fun and I learned a lot but it’s my wife’s turn now!
Was the post-NFL adjustment difficult?
It wasn’t too rough. I was officially done and once you know that it’s an easier transition. When you have three kids there’s also no time to sit around and think about things. So it wasn’t too tough exiting that part of life when I knew it was time to turn the page and move on to the next chapter of life.
You started your career in the NFL after signing with Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent. Why Pittsburgh?
Coming out of the draft, three teams contacted me when it was over. All had the same conversation with me, really. As you know, it’s a feeding frenzy after the draft for all of the leftover free agents. Pittsburgh was the only one to offer me money — a signing bonus. They gave me $2,500. That was the biggest paycheck I had ever gotten at the time! And Pittsburgh was close to home, having been a West Virginia guy who played at Marshall. It was an easy transition to play up north in Pittsburgh for me.
Did any of the guys help you most when you got there?
The offensive line group as a whole were close. We all just went to Pittsburgh for the reunion game and we clicked like we always did. It’s an amazing group of guys. I’m still close with Willie Colon, Trai Essex, and Justin Hartwig.
None of them could help me though with the traffic situation in Pittsburgh! My first time in Pittsburgh I got lost for five hours. I took a wrong turn and had no idea where I was. This was before a GPS. The next time I got lost for three hours.
You were released a couple of times before the season even began that rookie year. How hard is it working through that? How do you handle that pressure?
It was a tough time as a rookie, not knowing if you have a place on the team or even in the NFL. I was released right before camp and right after camp. Twice in my first six months in the NFL.
It was definitely tough. The mindset of a young player is to just get to play. To do anything you can. When I was cut, I just kept working. I did all of the drills we did in camp and studied the playbook even after I was cut.
I remember being called back by Pittsburgh. When line coach [Harold] Goodwin saw me, he saw me practice and asked if I was working on my technique the whole time! I did what they were doing every day and it paid off. You just have to stay focused and work hard. When I was older and was released I knew the ins and outs of the different scenarios.
What do you think prompted the coaches to bring you up from the practice squad and have that trust in you?
I think it was my work ethic. When I was on the practice squad, I was always the one who knew what to do. I was never the biggest or strongest guy. In fact, I was the smallest lineman, I think for a while. But I was strong in the weight room and always tried to outwork and outsmart guys.
I remember one time in practice in my second season, after spending my first year on the practice squad. It was right before spring ball. B.A. (Bruce Arians) asked me in front of the whole team where I was a week ago last year, and I told him I had been released. I wasn’t on the team. He said, “Now look at you. You’re probably going to get a hat on Sundays.” That was a big moment. It made a big difference. It showed everybody I made it. I was a nobody a year before that. I went from the practice squad to getting a hat on Sundays. Even guys on the 53 man roster, not all of them get to play!
You started at center for the first time in the Super Bowl. Who was more nervous, you or Sean Kugler, and how did you prepare for that?
I think my dad was more nervous than anyone! I mean, I had started at guard and played center in games, I just never started a game at center. But I was a more natural center anyway.
I knew I’d be fine with a full two-week prep. Interior offensive linemen, as backups, we usually get maybe five or six reps before a game. Having a full two weeks helped a lot.
I just remember how insane media day was. I thought I’d be in the background, but I was swamped with interviews. I had more that day than I had my whole career. Everyone knew [Maurkice] Pouncey was down so that created the media frenzy. Once I got that first week out of the way though, that second week was a more natural game prep week.
Any funny stories of your time in Pittsburgh?
Oh yeah. My first 10 minutes in the locker room, I was sitting there as a wide-eyed rookie. I didn’t know anyone. I had no one to talk too. The meetings were about to start so I figured I would go to the restroom and went up to the urinal and did my business. There was a line of urinals. I was standing there when Troy Polamalu came in and stood right next to me. Now, the guy code says you leave a urinal in between you when you can. So I thought it was weird. But what can I say, it’s Troy Polamalu. Then all of the sudden I feel something splash on me – he was peeing on my foot, I thought. I said “Dude!” Then I saw he had a plastic Gatorade bottle that he put a hole in the top of and was squirting it at my feet. It was a rookie hazing move.
Then he said in that sweet Troy voice “What were you thinking?” He was Troy Polamalu! He could have pissed in the middle of the locker room and no one would have said anything!
Who were some of the toughest guys you faced as a pro?
[Haloti] Ngata was always tough. That Ravens rivalry was always tough, [Albert] Haynesworth when he was that $100 million dollar man was always good. [Geno] Atkins and [Domata] Peko in Cincinnati played hard. And Kyle Williams in Buffalo was one of the toughest I faced.
Any thoughts on the way the game has changed today?
Well, as you could guess, I’m more old school. I grew up playing in the Wing T and love the downhill running game. Now, it’s all about points, as many as you can get, and away from defenses and grinding the clock down. I don’t watch the ball anyway when I watch football. I watch the linemen and watch any of the new stuff.
Thinking of getting back into coaching again when things settle down? Any coaching influences help shape the way you approach coaching?
Maybe someday again. I think I am good at it. It fits me well. Some of it comes easy for me and some of it is tougher. The lack of stability and having to move around isn’t easy. Right now though I’m just keeping my head above water with three kids!
Kugler was a great coach. He told us saying you are working hard is easy. It’s easy to just say you re doing it. But you can’t just say it, you have to really do it.
[Mike] Munchak is the best offensive line coach in the world. He was all about technique and keeping the lines of communication open as a group. He taught us you’re only as strong as the guy beside you. I have the greatest respect for him. He is one of the toughest coaches I’ve had but he had the best attitude. He can be stern but friendly and he showed us you can successfully be both.
What made him so good?
I think having played as long as he did and then coaching, he knew what it was all about. As a coach and a player, he knew the ins and outs players go through. The level of respect he deserved and received, and the respect he gives players isn’t something that every coach — especially ones that haven’t played football — show to players. Sometimes if a coach never played, what he says misses the mark. We did all he told us to do with extra intensity.
Lastly, as a guy who went from “being a nobody” to a Super Bowl starter, what advice would you give guys following in your footsteps?
Stay working hard. Keep working on your technique and the playbook. Some say they are doing it but you have to look in the mirror and ask yourself it you’re really working hard and doing it. I’ve seen a lot of players that weren’t ready when their opportunity came.