Both backs split carries in first Jets game

Updated: January 11, 2005, 7:00 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Running backs Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley split time during practice Tuesday, and Steelers coach Bill Cowher might not announce a starter until Saturday.

Jerome Bettis
Running Back
Pittsburgh Steelers
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
Rush Yds TD Rec Yds TD
250 941 13 6 46 0

"They're both going to play," Cowher said after the Steelers resumed practicing following a three-day layoff prior to their divisional playoff game against the New York Jets. "We'll see how we are on game day."

Bettis (941 yards) and Staley (830 yards) split time during the regular season, but only after Staley injured a hamstring Oct. 31 against New England.

Bettis, used mostly as a short-yardage back until then, stepped in with six 100-yard games in as many starts before sitting out Jan. 2 at Buffalo with a sprained ankle. Staley started that day, but was pulled from what was a meaningless game for Pittsburgh after carrying eight times for 21 yards.

Staley had four 100-yard games in a five-game stretch before he was injured, but didn't gain more than 51 yards in any game during the second half of the season. He appeared to have less acceleration and power after returning, but Cowher was happy Tuesday.

"He looked good today," the coach said

Bettis was the more productive back as the regular season ended, but expects Cowher to go with whichever back does well early against the Jets.

Duce Staley
Running Back
Pittsburgh Steelers
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
Rush Yds TD Rec Yds TD
192 830 1 6 55 0

Staley started Pittsburgh's 17-6 victory over the Jets on Dec. 12, but was lifted after being held to 51 yards on 16 carries. Bettis came on to gain 57 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown and threw a scoring pass on a halfback option play.

"It doesn't really matter, because I promise you both of us are going to play," Bettis said. "It's a two-headed monster. The guy who lines up there (to start the game) I don't think is too significant."

To Bettis, it doesn't matter if he knows in advance who will start. Bettis didn't know he would start Nov. 7 against Philadelphia until several hours before the game, and he responded with a season-high 149 yards on 33 carries.

"You have to approach this game, as a running back, as if you're going to start," Bettis said. "Early this season I approached it that way, even when I got in for only one or two plays.

"It's a matter of how the team is doing, of who's got the hot hand."

Cornerback Deshea Townsend returned to practice after missing the Buffalo game with a broken hand and probably will start, though he will wear a protective soft cast.

Willie Williams, who became the other cornerback starter after Chad Scott injured a knee Oct. 17 against Dallas, probably will stay in the lineup although Scott is healthy again. Scott, the Steelers' highest-paid defensive player, would play in the extra-back nickel and dime alignments.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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