Cowher has RB in mind

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> Bill Cowher had an inclination to name a starting running back Thursday.<br><br> "Oh, I have an inclination," he said with a broad smile, "but we'll see what happens Saturday."

Even though Cowher didn't indicate which way he's leaning, it's obvious the Pittsburgh Steelers will go with Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley against the New York Jets on Saturday.

Of course, this plan doesn't matter to Bettis. That's what he's maintained lo these past five months. If it matters to Staley, he isn't saying. He hasn't talked to reporters all week. But Bettis, the old pro that he is, took advantage of the pre-game media spillover, perhaps for the last time as a player.

How do you feel compared to when you were in your mid-20s?

"It's a lot different," Bettis said. "You feel a lot different in terms of freshness. At 25, the bumps and bruises don't really hurt that much. You kind of shrug 'em off. At 32, you feel them a lot more and it takes you a little bit longer to rejuvenate yourself. But in these types of situations, it all goes out the window because I think you understand the importance of this opportunity more than at 25. At 25, you figure you'll be back here."

Ever throw much before you came here?

"I played quarterback in middle school and flag football. That's where the feet came from. In flag football you've got to keep them from grabbing flags so that's why I was always pretty elusive as a big guy. In high school I played one game at quarterback. I always had a decent arm and if they needed somebody I was the emergency quarterback."

With you and Duce, can you look at it like starting pitcher and closer? And are you more effective in either role?

"No, it's different. Once a pitcher comes out of a game he's done. This is more of an interchangeable type of situation. Both guys will go in, and depending on who's hot he'll probably play a little bit more. I just think through the course of a game, if we run the ball like we want to, then both of us are going to need to take some carries."

So it doesn't matter if you start?

"It hasn't mattered all year. It won't matter this game."

Don't you hit the hole harder when you come in off the bench?

"No. I ain't got but one speed. It ain't like I'm running faster. But what happens is through the course of the game the defense is a little bit slower. That's just natural. A guy fresh in the fourth quarter, as opposed to a guy that's been playing four quarters, just naturally the guy who hasn't played is going to be quicker and faster. So what you saw was a defense that's probably a little bit more tired than me coming in fresh, and then you say 'whoa, he looks a lot quicker.'"

He looks angry is what I say.

"It's deceiving. I'm always angry."

Ever felt this good in the playoffs?

"Been a long time, '97 maybe.

Is it more important for you this late in your career?

"Oh yeah. The older you get the more you appreciate the opportunity. You understand how difficult they are to come by. As you get older you do appreciate it and understand that it's a little bit more significant. A young guy, a first-year guy, probably thinks we'll be here every year, but he doesn't understand how difficult it is."

Do the vets have to stress that?

"No question. You have to let them know how serious it is and the intensity level and that it is just a one-game playoff. That's it: one game. That's what the coaches have been preaching all year is one game at a time, and it's never more obvious than in this game. Because he's been harping on that, I think now everybody understands that it is one game at a time."

You guys haven't played a must-win game. Will that have an effect?

"You have to understand, we've played people who were playing must-win games. When you get their best shot, you've played in that type of atmosphere and at that type of speed against a desperate team, so you've gotten all of that."

Is there any more pressure since it's a must-win game for you?

"I don't think so. It's must-win for everybody, so I don't think we'll look at it any differently than any other game we've played. If we play our game we'll be fine."

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