Notebook: Duce is wild

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> Duce Staley wouldn't talk about his injured hamstring, but his bravado gave a hint as to whether he'll play Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

"I strongly believe we're the best 1-2 punch in the league," Staley said of he and his replacement the last three games, Jerome Bettis.

"As soon as I can get healthy and get back out there, we can continue to terrorize defenses."

In Staley's place the last three weeks, Bettis has carried the Pittsburgh Steelers with his biggest workload in seven years. In the last three weeks - all Steelers wins - the 32-year-old Bettis carried 91 times for 381 yards, an average of 4.2 yards per carry.

For the season, Bettis has 510 yards on 143 carries (3.6 avg.), while Staley has 707 yards on 151 carries (4.7). Combined, they have 1,217 yards on 294 carries (4.1).

Bettis and Staley actually rank fourth in terms of 1-2 halfback punches in the NFL. The New York Jets' combo of Curtis Martin and Lamont Jordan has gained 1,325 yards (4.8); the Kansas City Chiefs' Priest Holmes and Derrick Blaylock have gained 1,286 yards (4.6); and the Indianapolis Colts' Edgerrin James and Dominic Rhodes have gained 1,226 yards (4.8).

While Staley wouldn't comment on his bruised hamstring, he practiced Wednesday and said it felt good to be back.

"It felt good being out there with the fellas," he said. "I miss them. They've been going without me now for a couple of weeks. It's been hard being on the sideline. It's been hard missing practice. It's been tough. Hopefully, sooner than later, I'll be out there."

When he does come back, does he expect to have the proverbial fresh legs?

"I'll be out there with quick rabbit feet," he said. "Once you're out, the good thing you can say about it, you get a chance to rest some other injuries you have."


With Staley out of the lineup, most of the load has been left to Bettis because third-down back Verron Haynes has suffered through a bout with turf toe. Haynes didn't play two weeks ago in Cleveland, and last Sunday carried only twice for 6 yards. But he returned to practice Wednesday and couldn't wipe the smile off his face.

"I feel good," Haynes said. "I felt REAL good out there today. I'm almost back to myself."

The third-year back has gained 165 yards (4.6) this season, topping the 114 he'd rushed for in his two previous seasons combined. Both of those seasons ended prematurely due to December injuries.

"You write down goals in the off-season," he said. "My first one was 'Finish.'"

Bettis, who is probable for Sunday's game with a knee injury, sat out practice, along with reserve linebacker James Harrison (shoulder), reserve cornerback Chidi Iwuoma (hamstring) and second tight end Jay Riemersma (groin). All three players are questionable for the game. Of course, Kendrell Bell, Plaxico Burress, Brett Keisel and Chad Scott have been ruled out of the game.

Missing practice Wednesday for the Redskins were defensive tackles Jermaine Haley (knee) and Cornelius Griffin (hip) and cornerback Fred Smoot (shoulder). Haley is doubtful for Sunday; Griffin is questionable; and Smoot is probable. Linebackers LaVar Arrington (knee) and Mike Barrow (knee), defensive end Phillip Daniels (groin) and right guard Randy Thomas (hamstring) have been ruled out.

Others on the Redskins' injury list are kicker John Hall (questionable/groin), reserve running back Ladell Betts (probable/ankle) and left tackle Chris Samuels (probable/ankle).


Steelers punter Chris Gardocki was named the AFC's Special Teams Player of the Week after his performance in the 19-14 win at Cincinnati.

Gardocki punted seven times and placed five of his kicks inside the Bengals' 20-yard line, and three of them inside the 10. Gardocki also boomed punts of 50 and 52 yards in the fourth quarter as the Steelers protected their slight lead.

For the season, Gardocki is averaging 43 yards per punt, with a net average of 37.

"It's a great honor," said Gardocki. "(Antwaan) Randle (El) could easily have gotten it. He had an outstanding game as well. But on special teams the guys covered extremely well and made some great plays on some balls that hit the ground.

" In a vote of fans at, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week for the seventh time in his eight games. Since Roethlisberger broke into the Steelers' lineup in Week 3, only he, Mewelde Moore of Minnesota (Steelers bye week) and Bob Sanders of Indianapolis (Week 10) have won the award.


The Steelers have signed wide receiver Chris Doering to replace the injured Burress. To make room for Doering, the Steelers released running back Dante Brown.

Doering caught 18 passes for 240 yards with the Steelers last season.

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