With starter Duce Staley expected to play Sunday against the
Redskins (3-7) after missing three games with a bruised hamstring,
Bettis returns to the bench as the Steelers (9-1) go for their
ninth consecutive victory.
"Obviously, the Bus has been rolling unbelievable, but it's
going to be nice to have some rest back there for Jerome," rookie
quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.
It's a familiar scenario for Bettis. Despite passing Tony
Dorsett on Sunday to move into fifth place in NFL career rushing
with 12,863 yards -- the Jets' Curtis Martin is right behind him --
Bettis has been benched each of the last two seasons.
Still, it's rare to sit someone playing as well as Bettis is,
averaging 127 yards against the Eagles, Browns and Bengals. That
average is higher than Staley's 101 yards per game average, though
Staley has four 100-yard games in his last five starts.
"This is Duce's job," said Bettis, who had 91 carries the last
three weeks after getting only 52 in the first seven games.
With at least one Steelers back rushing for 100 yards or more in
all but two of their 10 games, Staley said, "I strongly believe we
have the best 1-2 combination in the league."
Getting one of their big backs going against the Redskins' No.
3-ranked rushing defense will be important in a game that clearly
worries coach Bill Cowher. While the Steelers average a league-best
161.7 yards rushing, the Redskins allow only 89.7.
The Redskins don't score many points -- they have yet to hit the
20-point mark -- but don't give up many, either. They're likely to
come hard at Roethlisberger with blitzes, just as the Bengals did
successfully while sacking him seven times during the Steelers'
19-14 win Sunday in Cincinnati.
Roethlisberger will miss his top downfield threat: Plaxico Burress is out with a sore hamstring. That makes it even more
important for the Steelers to get their running game going.
"You know they (the Redskins) are going to do something to try
to stop the running game," Cowher said. "They're pretty good
right now. They're second in the NFL (in total defense) and that's
pretty impressive, given a record of 3-7."
Steelers guard Alan Faneca doesn't think the Redskins will copy
the Bengals, if only because they already use complicated blitzing
"They do so much already, that's in their game plan to blitz
and rush from every direction," Faneca said. "They'll just be
borrowing from their own playbook."
Faneca said having both big backs ready to go can only be an
"It adds stability to the running back position, which we
hadn't had in the last couple weeks in terms of numbers. It'll be
nice to get him (Staley) back and get him in the mix," Faneca
said. "Jerome's a lot more north-south as a runner. Duce is
north-south but he's going to cut a little left, a little right,
make it a little harder to tackle you. They both bring something
unique to the table."