Steelers' tailbacks seek room to run
Coach Bill Cowher is aware that other NFL teams are hurting for running help.
LATROBE, Pa. (AP) -- Jerome Bettis may have secured a spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster with his performance Saturday night. But it's not a certainty, not with the crowded line of running backs behind him and Duce Staley.
The Steelers have plenty of depth at tailback this preseason, a time when several other teams are struggling to find healthy bodies.
"What's a strength for you can be a dire shortage for another team," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said.
The Steelers' opponent Thursday night, the Philadelphia Eagles, have a need at running back. They recently signed 34-year-old Dorsey Levens to replace the injured Correll Buckhalter. Earlier in camp, the Eagles lost rookie Bruce Perry to an injury. In the off-season, they lost Staley to the Steelers.
"There are a few other teams that need them, too -- the team we just played," Cowher said of the Houston Texans.
Texans backup Tony Hollings, filling in for injured starter Domanick Davis, injured his ribs against the Steelers after gaining 9 yards on 14 carries.
The Miami Dolphins are also searching for running backs. The Miami Herald reported Monday that the Dolphins are looking at Verron Haynes and Dante Brown of the Steelers, but Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert dismissed the report.
Haynes and Brown are the Steelers' third- and fourth-team tailbacks, respectively.
Against the Texans, Haynes carried eight times for 31 yards, scored a touchdown on a 2-yard run and turned a short pass in the flat into a 21-yard gain.
"Verron ran hard and probably got better as the game went on," Cowher said. "He hasn't had a lot of carries, but I think you see him run harder, quicker and see things a little better the more he got into the game."
Brown gained 37 yards on nine carries and is the team's rushing leader after two games with 78 yards on 17 carries. He was the Steelers' rushing leader last preseason as an undrafted rookie out of Memphis.
Parker gained the most
The Steelers' top rusher Saturday was rookie Willie Parker, another undrafted free agent. Easily the Steelers' fastest running back, Parker carried 12 times for 71 yards with a 25-yard touchdown run.
Bettis gained 48 yards on 10 carries Saturday, while Staley carried only twice for 5 yards. In two games, Bettis has 53 yards on 15 carries and Staley has 50 yards on 13 carries.
"These are nice problems to have. They really are," Cowher said. "I'd much rather have a hard time cutting a player here than all of the sudden finding you could cut a lot of these players and have a lot of roster openings, so these are nice issues to have."
The Steelers released defensive back Shane Walton and are "in the process of placing Kendall [Simmons] and Zamir Cobb on injured reserve," Cowher said. Simmons suffered an ACL tear in his right knee last week in practice. Cobb broke his ankle returning a punt Saturday night.