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Old 08-05-2007, 09:10 AM   #1
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Default Some backs hunt jobs tonight

Some backs hunt jobs tonight
Sunday, August 05, 2007

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The hunt for Willie Parker's top backup begins and ends tonight with Najeh Davenport, who will start at halfback for the Steelers against the New Orleans Saints in Canton, Ohio.

The search to fill the spots behind Parker and Davenport takes on a more fascinating turn and includes two young backs chasing a dream.

Undrafted rookie Gary Russell and not-your-average-first-year player Carey Davis have made enough of an impression through the first two weeks of training camp that one or the other could become the next Hydroplane Deloplaine.

Jack Deloplaine was a little known back from Salem State College in West Virginia when he made a splash -- literally --in a preseason performance in the rain at Philadelphia in 1976. Watching the water bug pick up yards, broadcaster Myron Cope dubbed him Hydroplane Deloplaine. He not only made the two-time defending Super Bowl champs but played for the Steelers the next four seasons and picked up two Super Bowl rings.

Davis and Russell likely never heard of Hydroplane, but they know Fast Willie Parker, an inspiration to all undrafted rookie backs everywhere.

"He makes you feel like it's possible," Davis said. "He went through a lot. I've been through a lot as well. It's not like it can't happen; it definitely can happen. I just have to be in the right situation, the right place at the right time."

This could be it for both Davis and/or Russell.

Davis plays fullback and halfback and has a Barry Foster-like build at 5 feet 10, 225 pounds -- stocky and low-to-the ground. He joined the Steelers' practice squad Nov. 2 and he has been around the block, wearing his fifth NFL uniform.

He signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted rookie in 2004, made the roster but was cut Sept. 13. The Colts, though, elevated him after the regular season, and he played on special teams in two playoff games.

Since then, he has been on the offseason roster of the Atlanta Falcons (2005) and the practice squad of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2005, with Mike Tomlin as secondary coach), where he remained until he was cut Sept. 3. He also spent time on the practice squad of the Miami Dolphins (2006).

"Carey has that ability to play a lot of different positions," said Kirby Wilson, the Steelers' running backs coach. "He's smart; he's what they call a 'tweener -- really a tribute to him because he can do a lot of things. We like him, we like what he does. Right now, he's in the thick of it."

Tonight, Davis will play halfback, fullback, on some first special teams and get a shot as a third-down back against the Saints.

"We want to see what Carey Davis can do in that area," Tomlin said.

Russell's case is a little different than Davis'. Russell, a Columbus, Ohio, native, did not play football last season after flunking out at Minnesota, where he gained 1,130 yards as the backup to Laurence Maroney in 2005.

Russell (5-11, 222) admitted he got lazy and fat, climbing to 260 pounds.

"I had academic problems, being lazy and immature. It was all on me. I wasn't getting up and going to class."

He also flunked most of the workouts he had early this year for the pro teams.

"I was overweight and I really wasn't prepared too much for it."

He was not drafted, but he lost some weight and the Steelers gave him a shot.

"Any time you sit out a year, it's going to take you a little longer," Wilson said. "To his credit, he's moved along a lot faster than a lot of people thought he could."

There is a bevy of candidates behind Parker and Davenport. Veteran Kevan Barlow did not have a good first two weeks and may find himself out of the running soon. Verron Haynes is trying to show he can come back from surgery to repair virtually all of the ligaments in his left knee in November. John Kuhn, who played nine games for the Steelers last season, is trying to make it again as a halfback/fullback. And there is Larry Croom and veteran starting fullback Dan Kreider.

The Steelers usually keep five backs.

"We're going to play a lot of guys in different situations," Tomlin said of the plan for his running backs tonight.

"We don't know what they're capable of specifically in terms of role development. I think if we keep an open mind and give them the opportunity to show what they're capable of, it will become clear."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07217/807133-66.stm
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Old 08-05-2007, 11:28 AM   #2
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Default Re: Some backs hunt jobs tonight

I like Gary Russell and I really want to see what he can do tonight.
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Old 08-05-2007, 01:22 PM   #3
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Default Re: Some backs hunt jobs tonight

I wonder if the Steelers might think about keeping only four backs? If we are going to keep an extra TE, plus three qbs on the 53 man roster, then some other position is likely to see one less player.
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Old 08-05-2007, 01:55 PM   #4
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Default Re: Some backs hunt jobs tonight

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Originally Posted by OneForTheToe View Post
I wonder if the Steelers might think about keeping only four backs? If we are going to keep an extra TE, plus three qbs on the 53 man roster, then some other position is likely to see one less player.
Well if they only keep four then FWP, Krieder, and Davenport are more than likely onthe team and Barlow, Kuhn, Haynes, Russell and Davis will fight for the four spot but I think Pittsburgh will only use 2 Qb's this season.
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Old 08-05-2007, 02:01 PM   #5
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Default Re: Some backs hunt jobs tonight

Quote:
Originally Posted by xXTheSteelKingsXx View Post
Well if they only keep four then FWP, Krieder, and Davenport are more than likely onthe team and Kuhn, Haynes, Russell and Davis will fight for the four spot but I think Pittsburgh will only use 2 Qb's this season.

I'd be surprised if they only went with three qbs. I don't see why they would have talked to Aaron Brooks if they were planning on keeping only two qbs. I'm also pretty sure that "frenchie" is no longer eligible for the practice squad, so if they keep him, he would be on the 53 man roster, but inactive for most games
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Old 08-05-2007, 02:03 PM   #6
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Default Re: Some backs hunt jobs tonight

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Originally Posted by xXTheSteelKingsXx View Post
Well if they only keep four then FWP, Krieder, and Davenport are more than likely onthe team and Barlow, Kuhn, Haynes, Russell and Davis will fight for the four spot but I think Pittsburgh will only use 2 Qb's this season.
FBs generally count against their own roster spot, which means one or two of them, as well, depending of how many TEs, WRs, RBs you want to keep.

So Kreider and maybe Kuhn or Davis

Then Willie, Davenport, and one or two other guys.

I really want to see what Russell can do, as well. He has potential considering he would have never gone undrafted if he had better study habits.

EDIT: Haynes and Barlow would have to be favorites.
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Old 08-05-2007, 02:18 PM   #7
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Default Re: Some backs hunt jobs tonight

I have my eye on Russell tonight. I'm hearing he had a great week of camp so far.

Go Steelers second teamers!
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Old 08-05-2007, 02:40 PM   #8
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Default Re: Some backs hunt jobs tonight

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Originally Posted by Crushzilla View Post
FBs generally count against their own roster spot, which means one or two of them, as well, depending of how many TEs, WRs, RBs you want to keep.

So Kreider and maybe Kuhn or Davis

Then Willie, Davenport, and one or two other guys.

I really want to see what Russell can do, as well. He has potential considering he would have never gone undrafted if he had better study habits.

EDIT: Haynes and Barlow would have to be favorites.
I pretty much agree. The Steelers will keep one traditional FB, which naturally will be Krieder. This particularly makes sense to me if we are keeping the extra TE and moving towards more one back sets. Any backup FB will be a player like Kuhn, Davis or Haynes that can play either FB or RB. The last few years we were able to keep a backup FB on the practice squad (Kuhn), who we could sign the week following an injury to a starter. I believe there was a game last year where Heath moved to a h-back position because we had injuries at FB. Pretty sure Kuhn can't go back to the practice squad, so if any of the other young guys are eligible that would be to there advantage.
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Old 08-05-2007, 03:07 PM   #9
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Default Re: Some backs hunt jobs tonight

I only see us keeping 2 QB's on the roster.

We "talked" to Brooks,but I think it was more of seeing if he was a better #2 QB than Batch (which he isn't).

Parker,Kreider,Davenport,Haynes,Kuhn is who I think will be the 5 RB/FB on the roster.
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Old 08-06-2007, 06:05 PM   #10
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Default Re: Some backs hunt jobs tonight

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Originally Posted by RoethlisBURGHer View Post
I only see us keeping 2 QB's on the roster.

We "talked" to Brooks,but I think it was more of seeing if he was a better #2 QB than Batch (which he isn't).

Parker,Kreider,Davenport,Haynes,Kuhn is who I think will be the 5 RB/FB on the roster.
I hope Haynes isn't on it. We saw Davis (?) last night.

it was impressive... but I want to see all of them against the first team.
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