Staley not feeling the heat yet

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> Duce Staley had the best opening day of any Steelers running back in the last 12 years, but the defense he faced last Sunday isn't the same caliber of defense as the one he'll face this week.<br><br> Staley realizes that running against the Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens won't be an easy task.

"I've played against him in the preseason," Staley said of Lewis. "He's a good player. Fast. Smart. Reacts fast. He's definitely a true warrior."

But Staley has never carried the ball against the Ravens in the regular season. He's heard the stories and watched the tapes, and he's anticipating the intensity of the blood feud that exists between the Steelers and Ravens, but Staley's not about to pretend he has a feel for the heat of the rivalry just yet.

"You can never sense it until you get to the game, the lights are on and you're getting ready for the kickoff," he said. "I can sit here and listen to what the coaches are saying and what the players are saying, but until I'm in that hostile environment, that's when I can react and see what's really going on."

During Staley's seven-year stay with the Philadelphia Eagles, the team's chief rival was the Dallas Cowboys, and Staley had the best game of his career against the Cowboys in 2000 when he rushed for 201 yards. Does he enjoy rivalry games in particular?

"I like any game to be honest with you," Staley said. "Every week you've got to make sure you get up to play because on any given Sunday any team can beat you. Look at Baltimore-Cleveland last week."

Last Sunday, Staley rushed for 91 yards on 24 carries against the Oakland Raiders. It was the largest output by a Steelers running back on an opening day since Barry Foster rushed for 107 yards on 26 carries in coach Bill Cowher's first game in 1992.

Staley came to the Steelers because of their run-first philosophy under Cowher. Since Cowher took over, the Steelers have led the NFL in rushing three times.

Staley got a taste of that philosophy in the preseason opener when he was given the ball nine times on the Steelers' first possession. Only twice last regular season did Staley have more carries during entire games.

"It was a great feeling," he said. "I didn't think they were going to do it but they fooled me. Of course, in the meeting the night before the game, they were like, 'OK, we're going to run the ball; we're going to run the ball; we're going to run the ball.' And of course, you have to understand where I'm coming from. Coming from Philly, I'm thinking, hey, I heard this before. But we came out running, and 11 plays later we were still running the ball." His 24 carries in the opener represented the busiest day of his last 26 games.

Could he carry the ball 30 times in a game?

"Oh, yeah. Definitely," Staley said.

Against the Ravens?

"Just try me out."

NOTES - Rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned to the Steelers sideline after suffering a bone contusion on his right knee during Wednesday's practice. Roethlisberger didn't practice but hopes to return to the field Friday. He's listed as probable for Sunday's game. Cornerback Chad Scott (groin) didn't practice for a second consecutive day and was downgraded from probable to questionable. Inside linebacker Kendrell Bell (groin) also missed a second practice this week. He's questionable for the game against the Ravens.

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