Monday, December 04, 2006

The Saga Of Sweatpants

It Wasn't Supposed to be this way. It wasn't Supposed to be this way at all.

And so, the absolutley befuddling tenure of Duce Staley has come to a close in Pittsburgh. I can't even begin to start to analyze the why not then, why now aspects, they will make you want to kill yourself.

Duce kept a rosterspot and sweatsuit, warm, for the better part of 2 years. Steeler nation has been wondering aloud since the start of the '05 season, when injuries sidelined old 22, when the team would cut him loose. Even at the beginning of this year's Super Bowl defense, when, Ben Roethlisberger's apendectomy forced the re-signing of a 3rd QB, we all thought, finally, the end of the Staley era. Instead? releaseing the teams best kick coverage man, beginning the downward spiral of the entire special teams unit. All the while, Ducey sat, snug in his sweats, looking on with complete apathy.

When Verron Haynes was lost for the season, it looked as though the Sweats would be retired, surely, this is what you keep an extra back around for right? Wrong. Staley continued to roam the sidelines, while marginal practice squader John Kuhn was dressed and participating.

Fast forward to week 13. A lost season. No realistic shot at the post-season and a chance for Duce to ride out 3 more games and then presumabley ride off into the sunset wearing a sharp reebok NFL equipment number. No again. Duce is finally relieved so Pittsburgh can bring back WR Lee Mayes and of course, special teams ace, Chidi Iuwoma.


Following the 2003 season when the Tommy Gun pass happy attack experiment or (TGPHAE) was shelved, Pittsburgh, unsure of the aging Jerome Bettis' status, made an uncharacteristic splash in the Free Agent pool, signing Philadelphia Eagle fan favorite Duce Staley. This seemed like a great fit. Staley, virtually a 3rd down back for the 2002 and 2003 seasons had always assured if given the oppurtunity to touch the ball 20-30 times a game, he could be an elite back. He was not a fantastic fit in the west coast offense run by Andy Ried in Philly. He has showed flashes of brilliance, like an opening day 200+ yard performance in Dallas and playing through all kinds of pain. He was voted the NFL's toughest player by his peers in 2003.

Pittsburgh had big plans for Staley. He was to come in from a bad situation and help a franchise reassume an identity, much the way Jerome Bettis did in 1996.

Duce was named starting tailback in camp in 2004. I can remember sitting in the stands, opening day 2004, a last second 24-21 victory over the Oakland Raiders. From the opening gun, Staley ran hard, made yards after contact, and grinded out tough first down after tough first down. I remember hearing the chants "Duuuuuuuuce" after every carry and thinking, it's like he's been here his entire career.

Duce pulled a hamstring in the Steelers victory over New England to snap an NFL record 21 game winning streak. In true Duce Staley as a Pittsburgh Steeler fashion, he missed an oppurtunity to play against his former mates as Pittsburgh trounced Philly 27-3, knocking them from the ranks of the undefeated. The Steelers learned that the Bus wasn't quite empty yet that day and Bettis got the Lions share of the carries for the rest of the year.

The 15-1 season, in retrospect, may have been the reason for Staley's playing time going bye-bye. Staley was not dressed for most of the second half of that year. Cowher repetedly cited the huge division lead as a reason to keep Duce "Fresh". It was also on a cold January day in Buffalo when the Steelers started the 3rd team in a meaningless final game. For the first time, we all saw "Fast" Willie Parker break a giant run.

Staley came in and gained some Tough yards on the GW Drive in the Divisional playoff game's OT against the Jets, proving he was still an able runner.

Duce went into the 2005 season again, considered the starter, injuries late in the pre-season put the Steelers in a pinch on opening day. Starting for the first time in his career, undrafted 2nd year man Willie Parker torched the Tennessee Titans for 161 yards. He never lost the starters job, in what turned out to be the super bowl season. Jerome Bettis was on a farewell tour as well, so Duce remained unused.

The final headscratcher in the DS Era was Super Bowl XL. For the first time all season, Duce was dressed. Coach Cowher was caught by NFL Films mic's in the waining moments of the Super Bowl victory saying to Duce, "I'm sorry I didnt get you a carry" as if they had some deal worked out. Duce's reply? "I got my ring coach, that's why I came here"

Something tells me Duce never imagined earning the bling would of been such a breeze.

Wow. That was exhausting...Well for me at least, Duce barely broke a sweat.


Anonymous Duce said...

Hey I really like your blog. If you are ever looking to make some extra money let me know. I made 1.5 million so far this year and I never even dress up for work.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Dunn said...

does anyone else find the above post hilarious?

12:03 PM  
Blogger Sonny said...

I do.

And I also find Matt Hudale hillarious, because he said that when the Steelers signed Najeh Davenport, they legitimately had two RBs you could call "Deuce".

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Signor said...

While the release of Sweatpants does foil Dunn's Halloween plans for next year, it was in fact long overdue. That being said, I am a bit torn about seeing him go. Yes, he was just taking up a roster space that we could have desperately used this year (Welcome home Chidi), but at the same time you have to admire the guy's professionalism in dealing with it all. He never complained about it and in fact told Cohwer last year to play Bettis in favor of him since it was in all likelyhood Jerome's last year. He agreed to a salary cut, and also he kind of looks like a black Matt Russo. Having Duce enabled ESPN to put togeather the funniest skit I have ever seen them produce. In Duce's first 7 or so games with the Steelers, he would get all the carries down to the goal line, then Bettis would come in and get a 2 yard touchdown. It was awesome, and at 1 point Bettis had like 8 carries for 9 yards and 6 touchdowns or something ridiculous like that. Well ESPN did a little pregame story about it that had Bettis doing all kinds of activities shortened, and the one that I remember was him in a bowling alley, standing 3/4th of the way down the lane throwing strikes. Hillarious! Thanks Duce.

11:34 AM  
Blogger Lori Beth said...

On that fateful Tuesday morning, I heard the announcement on the radio. Duce was gone. Ah, the day I had waited for for what seemed like so long.
I got off the highway and bought myself a drink. It's 5'o'clock somewhere, right??

However, it may be more difficult to sell those sweatshirts now...

8:42 PM  

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