Steelers Player Update

RB Duce Staley Had not worked out in Pittsburgh with his teammates until mandatory minicamp last week, and few knew why. They soon found out -- Staley is getting to know the father who abandoned him as a young boy as he watches Lannie Staley die.

Duce found out last fall that his father, 53, had terminal cancer of the lung and stomach and he's spending time with him in Columbia, S.C. comforting him and getting answers.

"I'm just thankful to be in a situation where I can communicate with him," Staley told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "But it takes a lot out of me daily. It's taken a lot out of me this offseason, just knowing the relationship we could have had. I see some of these guys around here where their fathers still play an integral part of their life and I don't have that."

In the meantime, Staley said semiweekly acupuncture treatment on a hamstring that ruined the second half of last season for him has helped it heal. He went through all of the team's minicamp practices without any problems.

He rushed for 707 yards after seven games, but the hamstring injury reduced him to 41 carries over the final nine games of the regular season.

"I think I came back too early and that hurt," said Staley. "When I came back it was never the same. A hamstring takes a long time."

RB Jerome Bettis
Did not practice during minicamp.

"Actually, it's making sure we don't have a setback, more so than anything," the Bus said. "The key is not to have a setback. So, you ask yourself, what do you get out of it as a player or is it more beneficial to sit? After 10 years in the same system, I pretty much know. What you see is what you get. It's also an opportunity to let other guys get some reps."

Coach Bill Cowher said Bettis has "a little quad tendonitis, but we expect him to be out there and get through some of the coaching sessions later this month."

RG Kendall Simmons
Steelers' starting right guard in 2002 and 2003, is back at his old job after missing last season with a torn ACL.

"There's always room for improvement, I think we can get better," Simmons said. "Last year we won a lot of them and hopefully we can do the same thing this year. When me and (right tackle) Max (Starks) get on that same page, we'll be fine. I don't think we'll miss a beat at all."

That would be a welcome relief for Simmons, who missed last season with a torn ACL in his right knee. He did start 16 games at right guard in 2003 but he was not himself because a week before training camp opened, he learned he had developed diabetes.

Simmons abruptly dropped 35 pounds in the summer of 2003 and had the worst season of his life because of the diabetes. He was having the best training camp of his career last summer, having learned to control his diabetes and regaining his weight and strength when his ACL snapped Aug. 18.

"He was looking great," guard Alan Faneca said. "He was coming out of the gates having the best camp he's had and probably better than anyone else on the O-line."

LT Max Starks
Will take over as the starting right tackle this season with Oliver Ross leaving as a free agent. Starks played as an extra tackle in goal line-situations last season, rarely more than five plays a game.

"Max is going to have to step up his game," LG Alan Faneca noted. "He doesn't know what he's getting into -- well, he might have a feeling of it but he doesn't know what 60 plays on a weekly basis is and he's about to find out. That's something he's going to have to get used to. He'll be fine but it'll be a little bit of a growing process."

TE Heath Miller
Steelers' No. 1 draft choice, has been practicing long-snapping. He practiced it during his days at Virginia but never snapped in a game.

"I didn't even know he could do that," coach Bill Cowher said. "That's a nice little interesting thing that he can do. You can never have enough of those guys."

LB Alonzo Jackson
The Steelers' disappointing second-round draft pick in 2003, will be competing for a roster spot this summer. He has played little in his two seasons here. Jackson, at coach Bill Cowher's request, lost eight pounds and weighs 260.

"He is becoming more comfortable," Cowher said. "Certainly there was a big transition for him and it probably has taken Alonzo a little bit longer than some of the others but that has to be expected some time. This will be a big game for Alonzo."

RB Verron Haynes
Did not practice to allow a knee injury that bothered him last season to heal fully.

CB Deshea Townsend
Who underwent surgery to repair a sports hernia five or six weeks ago, did not participate in minicamp.

TE/FB Matt Cushing (wrist)
Did not participate in minicamp.

NT Casey Hampton
Out since his ACL was torn in the sixth game of the season at Dallas, worked in full uniform with the defensive line but did not participate in the 11 on 11 drills in minicamp.

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