Steelers release Staley; add Mays, Iwuoma to roster
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Duce Staley at a Steelers' minicamp in May.
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Duce Staley might finally help the Steelers this season by making room on the roster for someone else. The team yesterday released the veteran running back, who barely played this season.
Faced with several injuries to starters who will not play Thursday night against Cleveland, the Steelers signed two of their former players -- wide receiver Lee Mays and cornerback Chidi Iwuoma, their former special teams co-captain.
Mays was cut Sept. 2 and Iwuoma Sept. 6, the day before the season opened.
The Steelers also placed rookie wide receiver Willie Reid on injured reserve, ending his season. Reid missed the past eight games with a foot sprain after playing in one game this season.
The moves were made because the Steelers could be without their starters at wide receiver and safety when they play the Cleveland Browns in two days at Heinz Field.
Free safety Ryan Clark and wide receiver Cedrick Wilson left the Steelers' 20-3 victory against Tampa Bay Sunday with injuries.
"I'm not sure they'll be able to make it on a short week," coach Bill Cowher said yesterday.
Cowher said it was too early to issue an injury report, but it's possible strong safety Troy Polamalu and wide receiver Hines Ward would miss their second consecutive game with injuries. Polamalu has a second-degree MCL sprain in his knee. Ward had a bone fragment removed from his knee eight days ago.
"Certainly with Troy and Hines, we're still in the process of seeing where we are with the injuries and we'll go from there," Cowher said.
Staley, 31, has been a free-agent flop, part of it because of injuries. He signed a five-year, $14 million contract in 2004 when he became an unrestricted free agent from the Eagles. He received a $4 million signing bonus.
Staley beat out Jerome Bettis to start at halfback and rushed for 707 yards in his first seven games. A hamstring injury ruined the second half of that season for him. He had knee surgery the following August and carried only 38 times in 2005. He accepted a $1 million pay cut to play for $1.5 million this season, but Steelers coaches were shocked to see how poorly he did in training camp. Nevertheless, they kept him on the team and his salary for 2006 automatically became guaranteed after the season opener.
Staley took the field for one play this season -- in the opener against Miami -- and had no carries. He was inactive for the past 11 games.
Iwuoma can help immediately on special teams while Mays could step in as a No. 3 or No. 4 wide receiver Thursday night.
The injuries may bring about the first NFL starts for the team's top two rookie draft picks, wide receiver Santonio Holmes and free safety Anthony Smith.
Holmes would start for Wilson at split end while Nate Washington will make his second NFL start, at flanker for Ward. Smith would start for Clark and Tyrone Carter for Polamalu.
The only other healthy wide receivers were Sean Morey, who made the team for his special teams play and has caught just two passes in an NFL career that began in 1999, and Young. The Steelers used Morey as the No. 3 wide receiver against the Buccaneers.
The team's two tight ends may also fill the void at wide receiver. Heath Miller and Jerame Tuman scored the only touchdowns Sunday in Heinz Field, on receptions, and each can substitute for a wide receiver in certain formations.
"Certainly a guy like Heath -- he's such a multitalented guy," Cowher said. "He's got great hands. ... Some of those you have to have contingency plans during a game. We will take the players we have and utilize packages that we have."
Washington led Steelers receivers Sunday with 78 yards on three receptions. His 30 receptions are fourth on the team but he leads with an average of 17.1 yards per catch.
"Nate's played really well," Cowher said. "He's had a couple of drops this year, but he's made some tough catches, he really has.
"He's a good young player, just like Santonio. They're going to get better the more they play. I don't like the circumstances, but they're going to be playing a lot more now."
Holmes is second on the team with 33 receptions for 504 yards. Ward leads the team with 57 catches for 786 yards and six touchdowns.
First Published December 5, 2006 12:00 am