Cowher undecided on halfback

<b>PITTSBURGH – </b>Bill Cowher likes to call two talented players at one position "a good problem to have."

Well, that's if everyone plays nicely. The New York Jets' coaching staff almost came unhinged this past Saturday because of the problem. Cowher certainly doesn't expect anything close to that when he comes to a decision about his starting halfback.

As of Monday, Cowher hadn't decided whether Jerome Bettis or Duce Staley will start at the position for the Steelers.

"They both will play and we'll see where they are at the end of the week in regards to who starts," Cowher said at his weekly press conference.

Both Bettis and Staley are listed as probable with ankle and hamstring injuries, respectively. In fact, all of the active players are expected to be ready for duty at 4:30 p.m. Saturday when the Steelers host the Jets in the second round of the NFL playoffs.

Cowher listed six other players as probable for the game: running back Verron Haynes (knee), cornerbacks Ricardo Colclough (shoulder) and Deshea Townsend (hand), and linebackers Kendrell Bell (groin), Clark Haggans (groin) and James Harrison (groin).

"Everybody will be working," Cowher said of the practice week.

Townsend will work with a large cast on his hand this week because of three broken fingers, but he's expected to wear a small protective cast on game day, and should start, thereby pushing Chad Scott back to nickel and dime duty.

The other returning starter is Haggans, who'll resume his position at left outside linebacker. Haggans missed three games after leaving the field against the Jets on Dec. 12.

A third former starter, Bell, is not expected to regain his inside linebacker position over Larry Foote. Bell has missed all but three games this season and will be used in spot duty.

That leaves halfback the only undecided position for Saturday's game. Bettis finished as the team's leading rusher with 941 yards (3.8 avg.). In six starts in place of Staley, Bettis gained 738 yards (4.0). Staley finished the season with 830 yards (4.3) after gaining 707 in his first seven starts of the season.

"We'll see," was all Cowher told reporters Monday. "They're both going to play. I can't make any predictions at this point."

Whatever decision Cowher reaches won't result in the type of theatrics Jets coaches provided along their sideline Saturday in San Diego.

Head coach Herm Edwards had to be restrained from running backs coach Bishop Harris after Harris expressed his displeasure over the use of LaMont Jordan instead of Curtis Martin in the third quarter.

The 230-pound Jordan eventually ripped off a 19-yard run around end in overtime to set up the Jets' game-winning field goal. The run was similar to the 30-yard run Jordan made against the Steelers this season. It was called back because of a questionable holding penalty after Jordan advanced the ball to the Steelers' 19, the furthest the Jets advanced – even for a play that didn't count – in the Steelers' 17-6 win last month.

For the season, Jordan has 479 yards (5.2), while the 210-pound Martin finished with 1,697 yards (4.6) to win the NFL rushing title.

"I think they're similar types of back. They're both slashers," Cowher said of the Jets' runners. "Certainly, Lamont is a bigger guy than Curtis, but Curtis has that body lean. You don't see a lot of big hits on Curtis Martin. You always see him falling forward.

"Lamont Jordan is a good back. He's a big guy with some speed to bounce it outside. He bounced one against us outside that got called back because of a holding play, but he got outside against us. He's a good back. They've got a great one-two cannon in those guys."

And that cannon almost went off on the Jets' sideline. Cowher shouldn't expect similar problems from running backs coach Dick Hoak when it comes to using Bettis or Staley, but one never knows.

"It's not easy to keep them both involved," Cowher said. "There's a fine line in keeping people involved. You want to give them a feel for the game, but at the same time you want to get the other guys in. It's not an easy thing to juggle."


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