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Hitting the Ground Running


One of the biggest treats in all of training camp is watching the Steelers run their goal line drill. The ball is placed at the three, and it's full-speed, blood-and-guts football on both sides of the ball. On the first 14 full-contact goal line plays this summer, new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt called 14 straight running plays. "That was a message to our entire team," Whisenhunt says. "Three years ago, when we won 13 games, [the running game] was our identity, and that's going to be our identity this year."

In 2001 Pittsburgh went 13--3 and rushed 580 times (54% of its snaps). Last year the Steelers went 6--10 and abandoned the run early and often, running 446 times (44%). After an impressive preseason, former Eagles workhorse Duce Staley will start in this Sunday's opener at home against the Raiders, with vet Jerome Bettis settling into a six-to-10-carry-a-game mode. "Forget tricking people anymore," Bettis said. "You know what we're going to be about this year."




Pittsburgh wants Staley to lead a rushing attack reminiscent of 2001.