Staley said he talked to Bettis and got the sense that this would be Bettis's last year. Bettis, though, said he hasn't made that decision yet.
"I have no clue," said Bettis. "I actually have to start thinking about that realistically, too. Not just for me, but for the team."
Bettis said he's tried to put a plan together, but keeps pushing it off. At the age of 33, he came back this season after giving serious thought to retiring in the off-season. But he's back and filling a need for the Steelers. As a change-of-pace to starter Willie Parker, Bettis has gained 136 yards on 42 carries (3.2 avg.) to rank second on the team.
Does he have Staley to thank?
"I look at it as an honor for him to look at it that way, to hold me in that high regard, that he'd be willing to sacrifice some of his own personal goals," Bettis said. "I don't know if he can control it, but somebody has to go down; that's the tough reality of it. So I guess maybe he makes it an easy decision for the coaches."
Bettis missed last week's game against Green Bay because of a bruised thigh. He's questionable this week, as is Parker with an ankle injury. That leaves Verron Haynes and Staley, who led the Steelers with 76 yards on 15 carries Sunday in his first meaningful playing time of the season.
Is it coincidence that Bettis's injury allowed Staley some necessary playing time? Or has the playing time been orchestrated as Staley hinted at?
"Coincidence," said Bettis. "Guys are banged up. You don't plan to get hurt. I'm hurt but I'm fighting to come back. If I could be active, I'd want to play. It's not a situation where I'm letting him get some work. No. Everybody wants to play. You make the coach make the hard decision. This is a situation where it's just worked out."
Neither Bettis nor Parker has practiced this week. Parker is limping with his ankle injury, making him the long shot for playing time Sunday night.
"They would like to have three out of four in some kind of way, whichever way," Bettis said. "The question becomes: If Willie can't go, will I be able to go? It depends on guys being able to practice."
DOWN GOES TUMAN
Jerame Tuman was added to the injury report Thursday with an ankle injury and is listed as questionable for Sunday night's game against the Cleveland Browns.
Tuman missed practice along with the same group that missed Wednesday's practice: Bettis, Parker, LB James Farrior (doubtful/knee), FB Dan Kreider (probable/calf), S Mike Logan (out/hamstring), LB Joey Porter (questionable/knee) and QB Ben Roethlisberger (out/knee).
ALTERED KICKOFF COVERAGE
If Farrior can't play Sunday, Clint Kriewaldt will start in his place at inside linebacker. His spot on the kickoff coverage team, which ranks 11th in the league, would go to Brett Keisel, whose outside spot would be taken by rookie Rian Wallace.
"Teams like to hit their returns up the middle," said Kriewaldt. "They'll run a middle wedge at us and you'd like to have bigger bodies in there."