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Old 11-22-2008, 09:46 AM   #1
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Default Steelers' Russell becomes dual threat

Steelers' Russell becomes dual threat
By Scott Brown
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, November 22, 2008


The person most surprised by the Steelers' longest kickoff return of the season may well have been the guy who flashed through an opening in a 27-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night and ran over kicker Shayne Graham on the way to a 43-yard gain.

"That's for a fast guy," Steelers running back Gary Russell said, with a laugh, when asked about returning kickoffs. "I'm not very fast. I hit the hole; that's all I can do."

The second-year man has done that well enough in recent weeks to serve in the dual, if somewhat incongruous, roles of short-yardage back and kickoff returner. And Russell's emergence is the latest example of how the Steelers have bought into coach Mike Tomlin's concept that players fall into two categories: starters and starters-in-waiting.

"He is a young guy that is working and is beginning to seize an opportunity and expand his role," Tomlin said after the Steelers improved to 8-3 and solidified their hold on first place in the AFC North. "That is what a team is about, and that is what the season is about."

Russell opened the season buried on the depth chart, and the Steelers released him at the end of September and re-signed him to their practice squad.

Injuries at running back provided an opening for Russell, and he has blasted through it, much like he did the crease the Steelers created on the kickoff return that came after the Bengals had taken an early 7-0 lead.

If Russell has provided a spark as a kickoff returner -- he's averaging 24.4 yard per return -- the 5-foot-11, 215-pounder also has given the Steelers a much-needed pile pusher in the backfield.

In last Sunday's 11-10 win over the San Diego Chargers, Russell twice moved the chains on short third-down runs.

Meanwhile, his fourth-down conversion on a 1-yard run Thursday night set up the Steelers' first touchdown.

His 2-yard scoring run in the third quarter provided the Steelers some much-needed breathing room and gave Russell his first career NFL touchdown.

"I think Gary Russell's done a great job on our short-yardage and goal-line (runs)," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We've had guys step up at every position."

They've needed reinforcements at running back.

The Steelers lost rookie first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall to a season-ending shoulder injury at the end of September, and starter Willie Parker has had trouble staying healthy.

Parker, who missed four games this season with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, sat out most of the second half Thursday night. Tomlin said Parker "tweaked" his knee against the Bengals, and the injury is not thought to be serious.

Assuming Parker returns Nov. 30, when the Steelers visit the New England Patriots, the roles are starting to fall neatly into place in the backfield.

Mewelde Moore has played well filling in for Parker, and he's also more than serviceable as a third-down back.

Russell, meanwhile, is looking more and more like the hammer the Steelers could have used when they got stopped on the 1-yard line three times in a span of two games.

"I got the opportunity," said Russell, who has rushed for 48 yards on 16 carries. "I'm going to keep stacking on that."

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_599628.html
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Old 11-22-2008, 12:00 PM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers' Russell becomes dual threat

Funny how some here were blaming Ligashesky for the lack of a return game. Looks more like the lack of returners were the problem than the coaching.

Russell hit the holes hard and got good yardage on kickoffs. Gotta like his decision making.
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Old 11-22-2008, 12:30 PM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers' Russell becomes dual threat

I wouldn't mind seeing what he can do returning punts as well. Santonio is terrible at it. He just dances around and doesnt find room to run, while Russell will run everyone over.
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Old 11-22-2008, 12:51 PM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers' Russell becomes dual threat

Russell is forcing us to keep 4 RBs next year. Willie, Mendenhall, Moore, and Russell will all have important roles.

Depth is always a good thing.
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Old 11-22-2008, 01:42 PM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers' Russell becomes dual threat

I am really starting to love Russell, I think this dude could have a great carer in the Burgh. How's about Mendenhall, Moore, Russell and Jorvorskie Lane! Sorry I used to love Willie, but even last year he proved that in those crucial situations he just can't get the yards. I want the power run game back and I think those four would give it to us!
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Old 11-22-2008, 01:51 PM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers' Russell becomes dual threat

the first time he gets stuffed on a 3rd and one.....this lovefest will come to an abrupt end.
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Old 11-22-2008, 01:53 PM   #7
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Default Re: Steelers' Russell becomes dual threat

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Originally Posted by MasterOfPuppets View Post
the first time he gets stuffed on a 3rd and one.....this lovefest will come to an abrupt end.
Yep.

Last edited by fansince'76; 11-22-2008 at 02:03 PM.
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Old 11-22-2008, 01:54 PM   #8
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Default Re: Steelers' Russell becomes dual threat

I've seen Bettis stuffed on a 3 and 1, it happens to them all, but when it happens to one guy ALL the time...that's different!
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Old 11-22-2008, 01:54 PM   #9
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Default Re: Steelers' Russell becomes dual threat

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the first time he gets stuffed on a 3rd and one.....this lovefest will come to an abrupt end.
Exactly!!

But at least the fans invovled in the current love fest can always blame the O line or Arians for getting stuffed. Personally......I like to blame Carey Davis
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Old 11-22-2008, 02:05 PM   #10
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Default Re: Steelers' Russell becomes dual threat

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I've seen Bettis stuffed on a 3 and 1, it happens to them all, but when it happens to one guy ALL the time...that's different!
Like Moore getting stoned on the goalline 3 times in 2 games? Of course that was Arians' fault, as I recall, for not "mixing it up." Sorry, but MOP hit the nail on the head - the first time Russell gets stoned on a 3rd-and-1 and it winds up costing us in the form of a last second FG by an opponent to lose a game because we couldn't kill the clock, the love fest WILL come to a very abrupt end.
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