Staley's signing gives Steelers options

Cross those running backs you had on your draft board off your list because the Steelers are no longer interested. <br><br> Tuesday's signing of Duce Staley to a 5-year, $14-million contract means the team will no longer look to select a running back in this year's draft and making cornerback, offensive tackle or quarterback more probable picks in the first three rounds.

Some will question giving a 29-year-old running back a contract that averages just under $3 million per season, but like the contract given to punter Chris Gardocki over the weekend, it's doubtful Staley will see the end of that deal.

A more likely scenario now has the Steelers using Staley and Jerome Bettis this season as their backs of choice and then taking a running back in the first two rounds of next year's draft after Bettis is released or retires.

That will allow the Steelers to grab a cornerback such as Virginia Tech's DeAngelo Hall or South Carolina's Dunta Robinson in the first round of this year's draft and then take an offensive tackle such as Miami's Vernon Carey in the second round to fill the right tackle position.

Or, if they choose to take a chance on massive right tackle Shawn Andrews in the first round of the draft, they could then grab a corner in the second round, with Ricardo Coclough or Chris Gamble being a possibility there if he drops out of the first round.

There is also a possibility that this signing could allow the Steelers to take quarterback Phillip Rivers in the first round and then grab Carey in the second.

They aren't likely to fill their offensive tackle hole in free agency, given the current market on pass blockers in the league. So taking an offensive tackle in the first two rounds of the draft is a must.

If the Steelers sign cornerback Artrell Hawkins, he will replace Chad Scott in the starting lineup and Scott will be released.

The bottom line is that Staley's signing gives the Steelers a lot more options than they had last week at this time.

No longer are they locked into taking a running back in the first round of this year's draft.

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