STEELERS Staley anxious to give Philadelphia his best
The Pittsburgh running back spent seven seasons with the Eagles.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- The reverberation in the stands sounded like a typical Philly howl, only those weren't boos each time Duce Staley touched the ball. It was the drawn-out sound of his first name -- Duuuuce!
That appreciative noise came a lot less often last year when Staley was the least used of Philadelphia's three-running back attack. It was a disheartening end of a seven-year stint with the Eagles for Staley, who signed in the off-season as a free agent with Pittsburgh to bolster the league's second-worst rushing offense.
Staley -- who has since said the Eagles would have won three straight NFC title games instead of losing them had they run more -- gets to play against his former team for the first time when Philadelphia plays host to the Steelers tonight.
"I'm looking forward to the game and I have a lot of friends over there," Staley said. "I spent a lot of years in Philadelphia, all good years, and I'm looking forward to going back."
The Eagles could use Staley after losing Correll Buckhalter to a season-ending knee injury last week. Instead, they took a chance on 34-year-old Dorsey Levens to back up Brian Westbrook.
Staley, who sealed his departure with a training-camp holdout last year, doesn't think about what kind of role he would have had on the Eagles.
"I don't want to talk about them. That's their problem," he said. "We've got our own problems in camp and they have their own problems, too. Every year you lose some good players. Unfortunately for them, they lost one of their good running backs."
Up in air
Though Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher hasn't named a starter yet, it appears likely that Staley has earned the nod over Jerome Bettis. Staley ran 11 times for 45 yards in his first preseason game, but had only 5 yards on two carries in the next one.
Staley rushed for 4,807 career yards on 1,200 carries with Philadelphia with three 1,000-yard seasons. He finished third on the Eagles' career rushing list and caught 275 passes with an average of 9.1 yards per catch.
But Staley said Pittsburgh's commitment to re-establishing the run was a better fit than Philadelphia where coach Andy Reid uses the pass-heavy West Coast offense.
"Andy, coming from Green Bay when they won championships, that's all they did is throw the ball," Staley said. "That's what they do there. Here, we definitely run the ball and I'm proud of that."
Reid said he never had a football-related problem with Staley and said he wasn't bothered by any critical comments from the running back.
"The thing I loved about Duce, he wanted the ball every play," Reid said. "He loves to play the game and I want my running back thinking we need to run the ball more. I have no problem with that at all."
Besides Buckhalter, the Eagles will play without defensive tackle Corey Simon (foot), safety Brian Dawkins, linebacker Dhani Jones (high ankle sprain), linebacker Jeremiah Trotter (ribs) and linebacker Ike Reese (knee). Starting defensive end N.D. Kalu will miss the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.