`Tough guy' Staley good Pittsburgh fit

Nfl Preview 2004

The Division Rivals

Pittsburgh Steelers

September 09, 2004|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Duce Staley, a running back in need of the ball, went to the right place to get it.

When Staley signed with Pittsburgh in March as a free agent, his need meshed with the Steelers' opportunity. After finishing next-to-last in the NFL in rushing last season, the Steelers want to restore the punch in their running game.

Staley, a burly, 220-pound dynamo, fits the Steelers in temperament, philosophy and profile.

"He's a tough guy, a physical guy," said coach Bill Cowher. "He fits well in this offense and can play all three downs. I think he's a great addition to our team and fits the mental makeup of our team as well."

Staley left the Philadelphia Eagles after seven years and 4,807 rushing yards. But injuries interrupted his career and a contract dispute seemingly expedited his departure.

After a 26-day holdout last year, he averaged a career-low eight touches per game as the Eagles went to a three-back rotation. With the Steelers, Staley, who beat out Jerome Bettis for the starting job, figures to get the ball some 20 times a game. He may get it more as a third-down receiver.

"Coach Cowher and I talked about the opportunity to get the ball as much as possible," Staley said. "He said I have the opportunity to get the ball a lot of times, and that's all you want as a running back."

In their falloff to a 6-10 season a year ago, the Steelers ran the ball 446 times, the fewest in Cowher's 12 years with the team. Staley likes the team's tradition for pounding the ball.

"Jerome has been around here for a while and he definitely brought that part of the game here, that hard-nosed running game, attack with the run, and all that," Staley said. "That's been a part of Pittsburgh Steelers football, and I'm just adding on to that.

"I just want to finish my career here."

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