All run, no fun for Steelers' Staley

On fantasy football

On fantasy football

October 07, 2004|By Dave Alexander

One minute you're yelling "Duce!" Next minute you're shouting "D'OH!" (Or worse).

So it goes for the tortured owners of Pittsburgh's Duce Staley, a repeat victim of TD theft.

That's right, TD theft. It's an increasingly common offense in today's increasingly specialized NFL, and here's now it works: One guy does a lot of work (like Staley) running the ball down the field. Then another guy comes in, runs for a short touchdown and gets to do a little dance or spin the ball or whatever else he wants (unless it's something choreographed, or involves a cell phone, or a Sharpie; those are No-Nos).

In Pittsburgh, the primary perpetrator is Jerome Bettis, that mountain of forward momentum who has played just enough in 2004 to score all of the Steelers' rushing touchdowns and send Staley supporters scrambling for something to throw at the television.

If you own Staley, you know what I'm talking about. He ranks ninth in the NFL with 372 rushing yards, but he has yet to get into the end zone. Every other running back in the top 12 has scored at least twice.

That's because every time the Steelers get within diving distance of the goal line, they lose the Duce and bring on Bettis. And he gets the job done - great if you're a Pittsburgh fan, not so great if you need points from Staley and, like a lot of us fantasyphiles, couldn't care less about the game.

Bettis ranks second among NFL running backs (along with Warrick Dunn) with five touchdowns, one fewer than Kansas City's Priest Holmes. Incredibly, he's done it on just 18 carries.

But he averages a measly 1.2 yards per attempt (for golfers, that's practically a gimme). He had three TDs in Week 1, two more in Week 4 and 12 total yards in two games in between.

In other words, when Bettis isn't scoring, he's boring. Put a guy like that in your lineup at your own risk.

There are others like him, too, players who get in the game when a team needs hard yards, but who are too unpredictable to play regularly in most fantasy formats. They're akin to closers in baseball - their value lies in their ability to excel in very specific, very key situations.

The New York Giants have a goal-line guy in Ron Dayne. Fortunately for Tiki Barber owners, Barber has been able to break off a couple of long touchdown runs and keep Dayne off the field for the most part.

The same goes in Atlanta, where Dunn is off to a fast start, but T.J. Duckett is always waiting in the wings to take carries (and valuable TD points) away.

For St. Louis, Marshall Faulk ran for 121 yards last week, but the Rams got rushing touchdowns from rookie Steven Jackson (Faulk's backup) and fullback Joey Goodspeed (who, incidentally, is not very speedy).

New England seems partial to tight end Daniel Graham (11 catches, 4 TDs) in red-zone situations over workhorse running back Corey Dillon (66 carries, 1 TD).

Those are just a few examples, none as extreme as what's gone down in Pittsburgh. So if you're on the short end of any of those scenarios, take heart in the fact that you didn't draft Staley. It must be tough to stand by your man when you keep getting blindsided by "The Bus."

Quick hitters

In a week notable for its lack of offense, scores were down and the top five was full of surprises - fantasy fodder Drew Brees, "Almost Famous" Amos Zereoue, and Tennessee QB Billy Volek (Priest Holmes and Tom Brady also cracked the top five). Brees threw for three TDs against the Titans. Volek attempted 58 passes (and threw for 2 TDs) against the Chargers in place of Steve McNair. Zereoue ran for a pair of scores in relief of Tyrone Wheatley. None of the three should have been on your roster, much less in your starting lineup.

Of the group, Brees is the most tempting to grab as a No. 2 QB and spot starter. He ranks seventh in the NFL in QB passer rating despite throwing to one of the league's worst groups of WRs. Philip Rivers can wait. In Oakland, a better pickup than Zereoue is Justin Fargas, who is expected to get the majority of the carries this weekend. Grab him if you need running back help.

Another trendy pickup for Week 5 (and perhaps beyond) is Minnesota rookie RB Mewelde Moore, who should start by default at Houston this week. Onterrio Smith will begin serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, and Michael Bennett still isn't healthy. The oft-injured back hasn't played yet this season due to a knee injury, and he'll be out for at least another two weeks. Moe Williams is also banged up, clearing the way for Moore and setting the stage for a Culpepper-to-Moss fireworks display against the league's 18th-ranked defense.

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