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83-Steelers-43 08-18-2006 12:12 AM

Staley gets crack at short-yardage job
Staley gets crack at short-yardage job

By Rick Starr
Friday, August 18, 2006

While it will be just another preseason warmup for most Steelers veterans, Saturday's game against the Minnesota Vikings at Heinz Field could change running back Duce Staley's future.

Starter Willie Parker will open the show at running back, but Staley also will play behind the first offensive line, Steelers coach Bill Cowher said.

Cowher said he wants a clearer picture of where the 31-year-old, 242-pound Staley fits into a running attack in need of a short-yardage replacement for Jerome Bettis.

"We've got to give him a chance to run behind the good offensive line, just to get a sense of where he's at," Cowher said Thursday at training camp at St. Vincent College.

"Willie is going to play a short period of time. I want to get Duce in there with that first (offensive line) group," the coach said.

Staley said after practice that he won't attach any sense of urgency to the game.

"I don't know about that," Staley said when asked if this was a chance to take over Bettis' role. "I'm just going out and trying to get better each game. That's what I'm trying to do in this game against the Vikings."

Staley was deactivated 11 times last season and did not play during the playoffs while recovering from knee surgery. He was inactive for six games in 2004 due to a hamstring injury.

Staley showed a burst of speed while taking the first two handoffs with the first team during yesterday's practice.

"I'm just polishing my game," he said. "For me, it's almost like starting over.

"You never know about injuries going into the season. You just have to have faith in yourself and faith in God, and I definitely have both."

Staley, who had three 1,000-yard rushing seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles, has scored only two touchdowns since arriving as the Steelers' top free-agent acquisition prior to the 2004 season.

Cowher gave Staley a day off from practice Wednesday to rest and get his leg strength back.

"All you can do is prepare as much as possible, and, hopefully, I'll have a good game," Staley said.

The Steelers don't have a long list of options if Staley can't fill their needs.

Fifth-year veteran Verron Haynes, who re-signed during the offseason, has been productive as a third-down back and on special teams. He rushed for a 3.7-yard average and scored his first three NFL touchdowns on 74 carries last season.

"Verron Haynes has had an excellent camp, but now we'll give Duce a chance to run behind that first line," Cowher said. "So there's a good chance we'll probably see him first (before Haynes in the lineup)."

Seventh-round draft pick Cedric Humes, a 233-pound weightlifter out of Virginia Tech, is still learning the system. He fumbled in a goal-line situation in Saturday's preseason opener. Cowher said Humes will get the chance to earn a roster spot in the second half of the final three preseason games.

"It's definitely open. There isn't anything secure yet," Humes said. "They need someone to step up and make plays, make catches and make blocks.

"We still help each other out, but there's always going to be that competition between us."

Steelers running backs coach Dick Hoak said he's been impressed by free-agent John Kuhn, a 255-pound fullback who finished his Shippensburg (Pa.) career as the Division II all-time leading rusher.

Although Kuhn said he's more concerned with improving his blocking, he ran twice for 15 yards in the preseason opener, including an 11-yard burst up the middle.

HometownGal 08-18-2006 03:01 PM

Re: Staley gets crack at short-yardage job
I like Duce's determination to get back to where he was at the start of the 2004 season. I thought he looked a little sluggish in the AZ game, but I took into account that he hasn't played much at all in the two seasons he's been a Steeler. I think Cowher has the right approach here - put him behind the first-team OL and see what he's got.

I'll always admire the guy for taking a backseat to Jerome at the end of last season to realizse his dream of starting in the SB in his hometown. Now that's team spirit!

Mamaduck43 08-18-2006 05:38 PM

Re: Staley gets crack at short-yardage job
I think that this would be a good place for him...... Yes, he was sluggish and rusty in Arizona, but he hasn't been suited up in a long while.... I will always admire him for his willingness to take a back seat during Jerome's last season, and I hope that he will be able to step into the short-yardage role.... And I also hope and pray that he will stay healthy....... When he came to the Steelers, I thought that it was a good acquisition, and I still believe that.... I hope that this season will prove me right.... Good luck, Duce.....

SteelerFanInCA 08-18-2006 06:08 PM

Re: Staley gets crack at short-yardage job
Duce just needs a few carries to shake off the rust. Glad to see Cowher running him behind the first string O line as a measuring tool.

I totally respect that guy as well for what he did. I'm hoping he can stay healthy and have a solid year in 06. The guy deserves it. Looking forward to seeing how he hits the holes after not playing for so long.

LambertIsGod58 08-18-2006 06:25 PM

Re: Staley gets crack at short-yardage job
Staley needs to go...he should apply for team mascot...he spends the same amount of time on the sideline...Haynes has earned a shot. Let's quit playin' around. Everyone is pulling for Duce, but what has he done the last two years?

Mamaduck43 08-18-2006 09:26 PM

Re: Staley gets crack at short-yardage job

Originally Posted by LambertIsGod58
Everyone is pulling for Duce, but what has he done the last two years?

He took a back seat to give a very worthy teammate a chance at his moment of glory.... That is worth something.....

He will be fine with a few more runs under his belt.... Give him a chance....

83-Steelers-43 08-19-2006 07:17 AM

Re: Staley gets crack at short-yardage job
Steelers Notebook: Cowher eager to play his Duce
Saturday, August 19, 2006

By Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Steelers coach Bill Cowher is anxious to watch veteran running back Duce Staley work with the first-team offense tonight in the preseason home opener against the Minnesota Vikings. Staley only played in five games last season because of a crowded backfield that included Jerome Bettis, whom Staley wanted to see ride off into the sunset.

Staley, 31, had been the starting running back in 2004, the year he signed as a free agent. But he was injured midway through the season and only played in three of the final nine games because of a hamstring injury.

Willie Parker is the unquestioned starter this season, but Staley is vying for the backup job and third-down role against fellow veteran Verron Haynes. Cowher said he has been pleased with Staley's play through the preseason.

"He's looked good," Cowher said. "We gave him off [Wednesday]. There was a little wear and tear on his body. I think you have to do that with players who are at that age and at that point in their careers. I just think he needs to play and to be able to get back into the running shape and get the feel for the running game. We have to give him a chance to run behind a good offensive line just to get a sense of where he is."

Cowher said Parker will play "a short period of time" with Staley coming in to relieve him. Cowher also added that Haynes is having an "excellent" camp.

BlackNGold203 08-19-2006 07:41 AM

Re: Staley gets crack at short-yardage job
Should be interesting....I think Duce still has alot left in the tank....

HometownGal 08-19-2006 07:45 AM

Re: Staley gets crack at short-yardage job

Originally Posted by BlackNGold203
Should be interesting....I think Duce still has alot left in the tank....

I agree. I want to see what he can do now that he's healthy again. Before his injury in 2004, he was actually looking darned good back there. If he can stay healthy, he will play very important role in the Steelers' offense this season.

SteelerMurf 08-19-2006 08:41 AM

Re: Staley gets crack at short-yardage job
What Staley showed me vs. GB last season when he came in rusty and pretty much sealed our victory....he deserves another loooong look.

The season is long and takes lots of twists and turns. We need Staley to be dependable or I don't think we go very far.

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