Staley won't fuss ... yet

<b>LATROBE -</b> The recently released depth chart for the Steelers' preseason opener Saturday against the Detroit Lions reads the same at the running back position as it had at the end of minicamp: <blockquote> <p> 1. Jerome Bettis<br> 2. Duce Staley</p> </blockquote>

There hasn't been a change throughout the first 10 days of training camp as the two have alternately split time with the first team.

But the Steelers did pay Staley $4 million in free-agent bonus money last March. And they did drastically reduce Bettis' salary in lieu of releasing him.

Is anybody adding up the numbers here?

Obviously, Coach Bill Cowher is paying his respect to Bettis for past services rendered. Bettis meanwhile has explained that it's not a competition between the two backs. Instead, he said, both must play if the Steelers are to prosper. Staley has no problem with that plan.

"That's how it's going to be," said Staley. "This is not the first time this has happened in the NFL. A lot of teams have done a two-back rotation. It's nothing new."

In fact, Staley's old team, the Philadelphia Eagles, used one last season.

"No. They had a three-back rotation," Staley said. "You didn't count right."

And that's when the running back's mood turns sour. Don't bring up the Philadelphia Eagles to Duce Staley.

"I don't even want to talk about that," he said. "I'm in Pittsburgh now and I'm happy."

After being named the Eagles' Offensive MVP in 2002, Staley held out of the following training camp and promptly found a place in Coach Andy Reid's doghouse.

In a three-back rotation, Staley rushed for only 463 yards during the regular season, but he proved he had something left by coming on strong in the playoffs. Staley rushed for a career playoff-high 79 yards in the loss to Carolina in the NFC Championship Game. In two playoff games, Staley gained 124 yards at an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

Not that the Eagles cared. They're set to carry on with Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter after Staley, 29, moved across the state to take a spot alongside the 32-year-old Bettis, who rushed for 811 yards last season.

The two backs combined for 1,274 yards last season, or one more yard than Staley's career-high in 1999. For the Steelers to return to the playoffs, the total will need to be sufficiently higher, and that's first-year offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt's intention.

The Steelers' theme this camp has been to become more physical, and to that end Whisenhunt has called nothing but running plays in goal-line drills. He's also leaned heavily on the 9-on-7 drills in which the 7-man Steelers offense attempts to find running room against a 9-man defense.

The offense hasn't scored in either of the goal-line drills, but has found success in the 9-on-7 drills.

"You look at the 9-on-7 tapes and guys are blasting holes against the same guys," said Bettis. "That's the positive side of it. We've been very, very good in 9-on-7."

"I guess fans and reporters don't take that drill seriously," said Staley. "When goal-line comes, everybody's around. The crowd's in it, and the defense has been doing a heck of a job. But there's more to our practices than goal-line."

On his first day of training camp with the Steelers, Staley lauded the aggressive nature of the coaching staff and in turn the team. He hasn't seen anything change in the last 10 days.

"Like any offense in the NFL at this time, we've got a lot of work to do," he said. "But I like what I see from our linemen. They're stepping up. They're matching the defense's intensity. "There's a good attitude here. Everybody's positive and that's what you want at this time. You have to continue to believe in each other. That's what you've got to do in camp."

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