Running back controversy?

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> There may not be a quarterback controversy in Pittsburgh this season, but there just might be a running back controversy brewing.

Jerome Bettis carried the Steelers down the stretch in Sunday's 17-6 victory over the New York Jets, looking more sharp and crisp hitting his holes than Duce Staley had earlier in the game.

"I was champing at the bit to get in there and we were able to get some creases," said Bettis, who had just five carries in the past game and a half after piling up 121 attempts in the previous four games in place of an injured Duce Staley. "Once I got through the creases, I refused to let one guy bring me down. I think the guys really ran with the energy I brought late in the game."

Of that there is little doubt. Bettis had a hand in both of the Steelers' touchdowns Sunday, throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jerame Tuman in the fourth quarter and then adding a 12-yard scoring run a few minutes later to put away a close game.

Bettis finished the game with 57 yards on 10 carries, compared to 51 yards on 16 attempts for Staley. This after Staley looked so-so in his first game back from a hamstring injury last week at Jacksonville.

Bettis had four consecutive 100-yard games subbing for Staley before last week. Sunday, we got a good look at both of them. And Bettis looked better.

"Usually at this point of the season, I'm pretty banged up," said Bettis. "But this year, I feel like it's game seven or eight of the season because I haven't taken a big beating. I went through a stretch there where my tongue was hanging out, but for the most part, I feel healthy and it's paying dividends."

But is there a controversy?

"I don't think so," said Bettis. "I think it's a situation where you want to keep both guys fresh and keep both guys in the groove of the game. The one benefit for us is that it's not different styles. It's the same style. We don't have to change anything. All you do is insert A or B and keep going. It's not a situation where you have to change because a certain guy is in there. I really think we compliment each other."
  • Now that the Steelers have doubled their win total from last season, we have to wonder which is the fluke, last season's 6-10 record, or this year's 12-1 mark?

    Given that the Steelers have now won their division in three of the past four seasons, I would have to say the 6-10 record was the bigger fluke.

    That said, however, the Steelers' 12-1 mark is still a pretty big surprise. A 12-1 record is special, something that's only been done one other time in team history.

  • If you put Byron Leftwich on the Jets, they would be a very, very good team. Chad Pennington has no arm strength whatsoever to challenge a defense down the field, something a team must be able to do to beat the Steelers.

    Like Jacksonville the week before, the Jets went with maximum protection to pick up the Steelers' blitzes - something the Steelers had better adjust to - but unlike the Jaguars, the Jets couldn't attack the Steelers secondary.

    Pennington lacks the arm strength to be a great NFL quarterback.

  • Speaking of strength, we got a good look at Alonzo Jackson's lack of it Sunday.

    Playing on passing downs in place of injured Clark Haggans, Jackson was embarrassing. He got absolutely no pressure and had players run out of his tackles on at least two occasions.

    But the worst AJax moment was when running back Curtis Martin slipped and fell and still managed to block an oncoming Jackson from his knees. Pathetic.

    James Harrison, who played on first and second downs in place of Haggans, should have stayed on the field, something the coaching staff will see when it gets a look at the film from this game.

  • Following Sunday's game, Steelers head coach Bill Cowher called Troy Polamalu the "best safety in football."

    Sure, Cowher's biased. But Polamalu is playing very, very well.

    Is he better than Ed Reed? Probably not as a playmaker. But given what the Steelers ask of Polamalu, he's done very well for himself.

    His interception of Pennington in the first quarter Sunday was as fine a play as you'll see. And his Tasmanian Devil running style with the ball in his hands is just a joy to watch.

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