Steelers Notebook: Staley thrives on heavy workload

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It had been a long time since Duce Staley touched the ball this many times in a game.

And he took advantage of the workload to finish the preseason in convincing fashion.

Matt Freed, Post-Gazette
Steelers rookie quarterback Omar Jacobs is sacked by the Carolina defense.
Click photo for larger image.

Staley gained only 46 yards on 19 carries -- hardly staggering totals -- but just three of his rushing attempts came with the first-team offensive line in the 15-13 loss against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field last night. Staley gained 8 yards on those carries.

What's more, on several runs, Staley looked like a back trying to prove he can be a contributor behind Willie Parker, picking holes, turning the corner and slipping tackles. The previous time Staley had more than 18 carries was in the seventh game of the 2004 season, when he gained 125 yards on 25 attempts in the Halloween night victory against the New England Patriots.

Staley is not in danger of being cut when the rosters are pared to 53 players by 4 p.m. tomorrow. But the Steelers might consider picking up a running back off the waiver wire this weekend.

A shuffled cast

As expected, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Willie Parker and receiver Cedrick Wilson were among the non-injured offensive starters who did not play against the Panthers. Tight end Heath Miller also did not play.

Three members of the offensive line -- left guard Alan Faneca, center Jeff Hartings and left tackle Marvel Smith -- played only one series before being lifted. After that, right guard Kendall Simmons played one series at center and Trai Essex, who started for injured Max Starks (knee) at right tackle, moved to left tackle and guard.

None of the defensive starters began the game, unless you count newcomer Ryan Clark, who got his second start at free safety in his training-camp battle with Tyrone Carter. That, though, might not be a good sign for Clark, the team's only major signing in free agency.

Carter, who appears to be the front-runner to replace Chris Hope, played against the Panthers, appearing for several plays as an extra back in the dime defense.

Clark played the entire first half at free safety before being replaced by rookie Anthony Smith, who has been one of the standouts of the preseason.

Bad snaps

The experiment of trying Simmons at center might be short-lived.

Simmons replaced Hartings on the second series and promptly botched the second snap, causing a fumble that Staley recovered.

After a defensive offside penalty against the Panthers, Simmons' snap in the shotgun formation appeared to hit his leg and bounced back to quarterback Charlie Batch.

On the next series, Simmons was replaced by Chukky Okobi, who made his first appearance since having neck surgery Aug. 9.

Omar didn't fold tent

Rookie Omar Jacobs clearly outplayed Shane Boyd and likely moved ahead of him as the third quarterback, though it remains to be seen if the coaches are convinced enough to keep him on the 53-man roster.

Jacobs, a fifth-round pick from Bowling Green, completed 13 of 18 passes for 179 yards and set up a late touchdown with a 46-yard pass to wide receiver Walter Young to the Carolina 4. His passer rating was 103.7.

After Boyd completed just 1 of 3 passes for 12 yards in the first half, Jacobs played the entire second half and completed 9 of his first 10 passes for 102 yards. He also had a pass-interference penalty gain 44 yards on a deep pass to rookie receiver Willie Reid.

Matt Freed, Post-Gazette
Quarterback Shane Boyd is sacked by the Panthers' Al Wallace in the second quarter.
Click photo for larger image.

Another start for Colclough

Cornerback Ricardo Colclough was a starter for the second consecutive game, this time because both regulars -- Ike Taylor and Deshea Townsend -- were held out.

After getting beat for a 61-yard touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, Colclough responded with a big first quarter, registering a sack and a pair of fumble recoveries and returns. Colclough also forced a fumble when he sacked quarterback Jake Delhomme, but the fumble did not count because Delhomme was ruled in the grasp.

Colclough, however, committed a Plaxico Burress-type gaffe with 2:30 remaining when he returned a punt 22 yards, stumbled, then got up and spiked the ball without being touched down. Colclough was penalized 5 yards for an illegal forward pass.

Burress committed a similar gaffe in a 2002 game against Jacksonville when he lost his balance after a reception, got up and spiked the ball without being touched down. .

Gardocki safe

It appears veteran Chris Gardocki, in his 16th NFL season, will remain the Steelers' punter. And not just because he handled the first two punts against the Panthers.

The tipoff came when Gardocki was sent out to hold for Jeff Reed's 40-yard field goal in the first quarter. After Reed missed two field goals in the loss at Philadelphia last week, coach Bill Cowher wanted to be sure he sent out the regular field-goal unit to make sure Reed didn't miss three in a row.

Mike Barr, in his third training camp with the Steelers, is expected to be released.

Quick hits

Backup offensive tackle Barrett Brooks appeared to be the most serious injury casualty when he was carted from the field with an injured right knee. The extent of the injury was not determined. ... Backup cornerback and special-teams standout Chidi Iwuoma sustained a concussion in the second quarter when he appeared to get kneed in the back of the head. ... Safety Mike Logan appeared to injure his knee in the second quarter and never returned. But he was not listed among the injured.


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