View Full Version : No need to panic over the Steelers' RB situation

09-17-2006, 12:07 AM
Smizik: No need to panic over the Steelers' RB situation
Sunday, September 17, 2006

By Bob Smizik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A sense of panic hung over the town last week and, of course, it had to do with the Steelers. What's more, this panic was understandable. After all, by most measures, the team itself had panicked.

How else would you describe the Super Bowl champions, a team supposedly thick with depth everywhere, reaching deep into the NFL's scrap heap to come up with two running backs that couldn't make lesser teams?

First, it was Patrick Cobbs, an undrafted player out of North Texas, who had excelled in the exhibition season for the New England Patriots. Still, the Patriots were willing to part with him Sept. 1 for a conditional draft choice.

Cobbs seemed like a reasonable reach, inasmuch as the Steelers, who play the Jacksonville Jaguars tomorrow night, had struck gold with another undrafted running back, Willie Parker. But Cobbs was cut a week later to make room for Najeh Davenport, who had been released by the hapless Green Bay Packers. If ever there were a definition of panic, it appeared to be the decision to sign Davenport, an injury-prone underachiever.

But before laying any kind of blame on the Steelers' hierarchy, Bill Cowher and Kevin Colbert, let's recall these guys have an exceptional track record. They're no latter-day George Allens, wistfully reaching out for players who might become stars. They've shown themselves to be hardheaded realists who border on being ultraconservative when it comes to waiver wire acquisitions. Which means, if they're reaching into the scrap heap, it's with good cause.

If you accept the fact the Steelers know what they're doing in this situation, then you also must accept the fact they have recently erred on another personnel matter. They went into the season believing Duce Staley was a good choice to back up Parker to relieve him in short-yardage situations and to give him rests at various points to keep him fresh for the season.

The fact the Steelers have been so active in seeking out other running backs is a clear indication they were wrong about Staley. He came to camp out of shape, and as the preseason progressed he gave scant indication he was the back who excelled early in the 2004 season. Apparently, missing the second half of 2004 and being little more than an observer last season has cost Staley, 31 and in his 10th season, his edge.

Considering Staley's age and his recent inactivity, it might have been prudent to use an early round draft choice on a running back. That's particularly true on a team that runs the ball more than any other in the NFL.

Now it looks as if Davenport will back up Parker and pretty much assume the role Jerome Bettis had last year. Davenport is no Bettis, but that doesn't negate the fact a lot of teams would love to have the Steelers' "problems" at running back.

A little too much is being made of the backup role, perhaps because Bettis made it so famous last year. The Steelers, for example, have the same or less protection behind wide receiver Hines Ward, who missed all of the exhibition season. Yet, there seems to be little concern about that position.

In Parker, the Steelers have the kind of game-breaking running back they've never had in the modern era. It's true, he has only one year as a starter and the possibility exists he will not duplicate last year's performance, when he ran for 1,202 yards, sixth best in team history, and averaged 4.7 yards per carry, a number Bettis never exceeded. But that's not likely. By all accounts, Parker is the real deal.

If he gets hurt, of course, the Steelers have a problem, as do most teams when they lose their starting running back.

The Steelers also have Verron Haynes, a highly competent third-down back, who can catch the ball, block and be effective as a runner. It's possible, if pressed into such duty, Haynes could be a competent backup to Parker.

In the meantime, it's Davenport and Staley. There are worse situations in which a team could find itself.

Just because Cowher and Colbert were frantically searching for a backup running back doesn't mean the season is lost. It's not as if Davenport or Staley will be asked to handle an overwhelming role. Let's not forget, before Bettis went out in such a blaze of glory, there was ample talk that he was finished. The point is: You don't need Pro Bowl talent to play backup running back.

Davenport, who also can play fullback, looks to be able to pound out the short yardage. Maybe he'll be able to control the clock like Bettis often did last season.

If not, maybe Staley will get a chance and regain his past form.

If not, maybe Parker can do it all.

If not, well, maybe the Steelers won't win the Super Bowl again.

If they don't, though, in all likelihood it won't be because their backup running back wasn't good enough.


tony hipchest
09-17-2006, 01:27 AM
j. kuhn


09-17-2006, 09:28 AM
I'm not worried now and I wasn't worried before Davenport's signing. Parker, Davenport, Haynes and Staley - I'd say we're represented well at RB. I'm sure there are teams out there who would love to be in our position. :cool:

Black@Gold Forever32
09-17-2006, 09:35 AM
I'm not worried now and I wasn't worried before Davenport's signing. Parker, Davenport, Haynes and Staley - I'd say we're represented well at RB. I'm sure there are teams out there who would love to be in our position. :cool:

The only thing I worried about with "Dookie" is he might leave Joey Porter a suprise in his locker. Willie P. is one of my favorite Steelers. I have all the faith in the world in him. So Davenport is just added depth in my mind. Now with Staley he might be done. But by mid-season he might in shape again. So Duce might not dress every game but I still see him being on the 53 man roster. Against the Packers we needed Duce and he did come through.

Atlanta Dan
09-17-2006, 10:06 AM
It appears pretty clear Duce was going to make the same amount of $$ whether he got cut or not and that this is his last year.

In other words, it is as if one of us was going to get paid the same amount of $$ whether or not we showed up for work. Duce clearly has decided not to show up for work. Steelers should have cut his fat a** and taken the financial hit.

09-17-2006, 10:12 AM
I still liked what I saw from Kuhn. shazbot...

let's have faith in the staff that they will keep the running game rolling.