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Staley to make season debut for Steelers on Sunday

PITTSBURGH -- Duce Staley is going to carry the ball for the
Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday for the first time in almost 11
months.

The Steelers and their running back can only hope his return was
worth the wait.

With Jerome Bettis not expected to play because of a quadriceps
injury, Staley will be activated for only the second time this
season when the Steelers visit Green Bay on Sunday. He missed all
but one day of training camp following knee surgery and has been on
the field for only a couple of snaps this season. Staley has yet to
carry the ball.

Staley has rushed for 5,637 yards and 23 touchdowns in parts of
eight NFL seasons.

With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out following arthroscopic
knee surgery, Pittsburgh was already shorthanded on offense.

"We all have faith in Duce to step in and get the job done,"
said Willie Parker, who leads the team with three 100-yard rushing
performances in seven games. "The running game will be ready, just
as it always is, and we'll be ready to run even more without Ben in
there."

Losing Bettis, the NFL's fifth career leading rusher, compounds
that more. Bettis has been used in situations where the Steelers
need critical short yardage or want to run down the clock to
protect a lead.

"That will be a tough situation," Bettis said. "But it's not
like we haven't dealt with bigger issues than that. That's why we
have quality backups, because everybody is capable of playing well.
That's what we need right now."

Bettis, injured late in Pittsburgh's 27-13 win over Cincinnati
on Oct. 23, has not started a game this season but has been second
to Parker in carries and yards in all but one of the games he has
played.

Staley, who began last season as the starter after being
acquired as a free agent from the Philadelphia Eagles, rushed for
707 yards during the first seven games in 2004 but a hamstring
injury limited him to only 41 carries the rest of the season. He
hasn't carried since the Steelers' 41-27 loss to New England in the
AFC title game in January.

Staley returned Sept. 25 against the Patriots, but only appeared
for three plays. He was inactive the following week when Bettis
returned from a preseason calf injury and hasn't dressed for a game
since.

"It's been a long time," Staley said. "I'm looking forward to
it and am excited about it. I feel pretty good."

Earlier, coach Bill Cowher questioned whether Staley would be
100 percent this season, but Staley said he is close to being so.

The last three games, Pittsburgh has used a running back
rotation where Parker has roughly twice the carries as Bettis. The
Steelers are not revealing their Sunday plan for spreading the ball
around.

"You'll have to ask the coaches, but I'm definitely a
competitor," said Staley, a three-time 1,000-yard rusher with
Philadelphia. "I want to [go] out and help my team win. It goes both
ways, if I have to sit down to help my team win, I would do the
same. You saw that the last couple weeks.

"I still love playing the game, still want to play the game,
still want to be productive. That's what it's all about."