Can anyone replace Jerome Bettis?

Better than last season? Why not? First and third-round draft picks replace Antwaan Randle El. Brett Keisel replaces Kimo von Oelhoffen. The top free agent and the second draft pick replace Chris Hope. That leaves Jerome Bettis and his 22 touchdowns from the last two seasons. The only new back is seventh-round pick Cedric Humes. Who's he?

Cedric Humes, the Pittsburgh Steelers' seventh-round draft pick out of Virginia Tech, is a muscular 233-pound tailback who scored 22 touchdown his senior season at Princess Anne (Va.) High School. He could've scored 22 touchdowns the last two seasons, too, had he not suffered some bad breaks – one to his fibula and one to his forearm.

The departure of Kevin Jones in the 2004 draft meant it was "H-u-u-u-u-u-m-e-s" time at Tech, but the winner of the Super Iron Hokie award broke his left fibula in spring drills. Humes recovered in time to start the season at fullback, but he struggled most of the year. Humes finally emerged in rivalry week when, as a tailback, he rushed for 95 yards and sealed a win over Virginia with a 37-yard touchdown run.

The next game may have been Humes's best. He rushed for 110 yards on 27 carries in a 16-10 win at Miami. It sparked promise of a big senior season, but Humes broke his right forearm in the sixth game. Thanks to the bye week, and a Tech engineering class, Humes missed only six quarters of action.

Tech was undefeated at the time of the injury, and Humes was averaging 4.2 yards per rush with five touchdowns. Trainer Mike Goforth searched the internet for a way to get Humes back on the field in a hurry, and his search didn't go very far. The site of the school's Department of Materials Science and Engineering told Goforth all he needed to know, and he petitioned the professor of the Biomaterials class for a chance to speak to the students. They came up with a brace that protected the plate and six screws in Humes's forearm.

Humes returned to help the Hokies beat Boston College, but Tech's undefeated season ended in the ninth game, a 27-7 loss to Miami in which Humes rushed for only 20 yards on seven carries.

Humes finished his senior season on a high note with three 100-yard games in his final four games. He ran a 4.65 40 at the combine and benched 225 pounds 18 times. He ended up dropping in the draft and the Steelers scooped him up in the seventh round.

CEDRIC HUMES Q&A (May 16, 2006)

Q: It says here you're a two-time Super Iron Hokie. How much can you lift?

A; I've squatted 610 and I've benched 360. The squatting definitely has helped my legs. That helped me out a lot and I know it did throughout my college career, so I try to keep my legs strong.

Q: Aren't you a pile-mover?

A: Yeah, and I want to keep it that way.

Q: What about that forearm pad?

A: It definitely worked. They got a direct fit for my arm and put it together. It was like a brace. I couldn't feel anything. I put a pad over it. I never had any problems with it.

Q: Did you use it when you hit people?

A: Yeah, I used it to my advantage, definitely. Even my teammates wished they had one on each arm after they saw me using that stuff. But it did help me out. I didn't have any pain even the first game back. No problems at all.

Q: Wasn't there a pad already in place for that?

A: Yeah, and it kind of worked, but at the same time I guess they wanted to try something new. They talked to the engineering people and a doctor and they all got together and came up with something new. I hear a lot of people are going to start using it.

Q: How much did your broken leg hurt you?

A: I had to go through a lot. That leg, I wanted to believe it was fully healed, but throughout most of that season it really wasn't. Toward the end of the season it just came along. I got my mental right and at the end of the season I did really well.

Q: The injuries obviously hurt your draft status. Does it all add up to the Steelers getting a good bargain here?

A: I would say. If I'd have had more time, not gotten injured and played more, I definitely would've had better seasons. I hate to be talking big about myself, but yeah I would say they got a steal. I'm definitely happy to be here no matter what round I came in because I like the facility; I like the coaches. I'm blending in well. I'm really happy it worked out the way it did.

Q: Considering your size, is it safe to say those injuries were flukes?

A: I guess you could say that. They were like freak accidents, and definitely the weightlifting both before and after the injuries helped me out. My ankle and arm are back to normal.

Q: Are you surprised by this team's enthusiasm?

A: Yeah. It's cool. In the NFL, I didn't know if guys really do get enthused. Here, it seems like it's definitely a team and they do that stuff to stay together.

Q: You're lockering next to Duce. Are you guys getting along?

A: Yeah, we're hitting it off. He's showing me around and giving me tips.

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