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Old 07-30-2005, 11:52 PM   #1
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Default Bettis, Staley poised to finally reach big game

Bettis, Staley poised to finally reach big game
By Joe Bendel
Sunday, July 31, 2005

Between them, they've covered 10.7 miles running the football. That translates into 18,910 yards, 56,730 feet or about the distance between Pittsburgh and Monroeville.

Their bodies have been poked, pushed and punished, and their injury reports are Evel Knievel-esque.

Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley - the Steelers' 30-something running backs - have experienced pretty much everything on a football field, with one significant exception:

Playing in a Super Bowl.

"It's what every player strives for," said Bettis, who begins his 13th NFL training camp today at St. Vincent College, near Latrobe. "Who wouldn't want to win it all?"

"Getting to the big game and winning is always the goal," said Staley, a nine-year vet. "You only get so many chances to get there."

And therein lies the rub for these Steelers backs, particularly the 33-year-old Bettis, who contemplated retirement after carrying the Steelers to the AFC Championship game last season. He's already been on the cusp of three Super trips -- last year, 1997 and 2001 -- but watched each opportunity slip away in the AFC finale.

"Close," Bettis said. "But close doesn't count."

Staley has experienced even more near-misses than his backfield mate, as he's played in four conference title games (three with the Philadelphia Eagles and last year with the Steelers) but failed to make it to the NFL's biggest stage on each occasion.

In all, that's seven shots at the Super Bowl between the two runners -- with zero results.

It makes a person wonder if these men are doomed for the runner-up spot, for the bronze and silver medals but never the gold. Have the football gods decided to put Bettis and Staley in the "Never Been to the Big Game" category with players such as O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders and Earl Campbell?

Time will tell if that is the case, but this much is certain: The window gets closer to shutting each year.

"You only get a little bit of time to play this game, really," Bettis said. "You have to make the most of your opportunities."

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