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Old 08-08-2007, 08:23 AM   #1
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Default Steelers RBs make most of opportunity

Steelers RBs make most of opportunity
By Scott Brown
Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Mike Tomlin put out an edition of "The News," on Tuesday, and Carey Davis was included in the mock newspaper that the first-year coach uses to single out players.

"In a good way," said Davis, a well-traveled running back. "A lot of people made 'The News' in a good way."

Davis made news Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game by rushing for a game-high 68 yards.

Yet, even after coaches and players reviewed film of the Steelers' 20-7 win over the New Orleans Saints, there wasn't much there to separate the logjam at running back behind starter Willie Parker.

"The first test gives you an indicator," running backs coach Kirby Wilson said, "but it's still way too early in the ballgame to make any kind of decisions right now."

Exhibition games, particularly first ones, are generally thought to have less meaning than a Pauly Shore film.

But there's at least one reason why Steelers' fans shouldn't discount what Davis (a combined 100 yards rushing and receiving) or Gary Russell (41 yards on eight carries) did Sunday night. Parker made the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2004, which is the same route Davis and Russell have been forced to take.

The 5-foot-10, 225-pound Davis bounced around the NFL since 2004, trying to shed a too-small-to-be-a-fullback, too-slow-to-be-a-running back label.

The Illinois graduate has appeared in only one NFL game and has been released by four teams. Yet he remains as undeterred as he was against the Saints on Sunday, when he broke a couple of tackles near the line of scrimmage and ripped off a 56-yard run.

"I know I can play in this league," said Davis, who's worked at running back and fullback during camp. "It was always about an opportunity and, when you get that opportunity, taking advantage of it."

Russell nearly squandered his opportunity to play in the NFL.

After a breakout sophomore season at Minnesota -- Russell rushed for 1,130 yards and scored 19 touchdowns while splitting time with New England Patriots running back Laurence Maroney -- he flunked out of school.

"It was me just being lazy, immature," said Russell, who doesn't turn 21 until Sept. 8.

The 5-11, 225-pounder torpedoed any chance he had of getting drafted by showing up at the NFL Combine last February overweight and by running a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash.

Russell, however, has impressed the Steelers with his willingness to learn and with his power.

He and Davis might have to do more in camp and exhibition games than players like Kevan Barlow and Verron Haynes, who have NFL track records.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said past success in the league is a plus for a player trying to make the team.

But, he added, "When I look out there, I just see running backs. I don't see guys that have been in (the NFL) five years, six years, one year. Whoever's putting it in the right spot, holding onto the ball and getting physical, those are the guys you get excited about."

Running backs review

Here's what some Steelers coaches had to say about their running backs after watching film from the team's 20-7 win Sunday over the New Orleans Saints:

"They both graded out pretty good, and that's what you expected because that's the way they practiced." -- Running backs coach Kirby Wilson, on Carey Davis and Gary Russell, who combined for 109 rushing yards

"He played well. He did his job, executed his assignments, and when his opportunities were there, he produced." -- Wilson, on Kevan Barlow, who rushed for 13 yards on seven carries

"I thought, as a group, they ran physical. They didn't die easy as coach Wilson likes to say. They finished off runs." -- Coach Mike Tomlin

"They ran extremely hard, blocked hard, played real physical. We've still got a lot of things to clean up. We left a lot of yards and a lot of points on the field." -- Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians

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Old 08-08-2007, 08:57 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers RBs make most of opportunity

Duplicate thread: http://forums.steelersfever.com/show...196#post275196

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