jditty47 Posted March 10, 2004 Report Share Posted March 10, 2004 Five years, $14M for top unrestricted TB By Len PasquarelliESPN.com Free-agent tailback Duce Staley, the top unrestricted player at his position, could take a bus across the Pennsylvania Turnpike to reach his new home.Fitting, since the former Philadelphia Eagles star will take the place of "The Bus" in the Pittsburgh Steelers' lineup.Staley on Tuesday night signed a five-year, $14 million deal with the Steelers, ESPN.com has learned, and the team hopes he will resurrect a ground game that uncharacteristically ranked as the second worst in 2003. Ironically, one reason Staley opted for the Steelers over the Detroit Lions, with whom he visited Tuesday, was the presence of Jerome Bettis, aka "The Bus."The contract will pay Staley, 29, a $4 million signing bonus. Over its first four seasons, the contract is worth $12 million, and then the base salary in 2008 drops to $2 million. Pittsburgh had pursued Staley, 29, ardently the past two days and made him a top priority.His signing means that the Steelers will release Amos Zereoue, a part-time starter in each of the last two seasons. Bettis recently restructured his contract, reducing his base salary to $1 million, to remain with the team for at least one more season."It was obvious the Steelers really wanted Duce," said agent Derrick Harrison. "And it was pretty obvious, too, that Duce admires Jerome and wants to play with him. He thinks they'll make for a great twosome."Make no mistake about it, though -- the Steelers recruited Staley to be the starter. Not in three decades has the Pittsburgh ground attack been as pitiful as in 2003 and Staley will be counted upon to provide instant improvement. The Steelers traditionally have been a power running team and Staley's slashing style should make for a good fit.The Tampa Bay Bucs were among the other teams interested in Staley, but they opted to sign free agent Charlie Garner earlier Tuesday.A former South Carolina star, Staley was a third-round choice of the Eagles in the '97 draft. He has started in 65 of his 98 appearances and rushed for 4,807 yards and 22 touchdowns on 1,200 carries. Staley also is an accomplished receiver and has 275 career catches for 2,498 yards and 10 touchdowns.Three times in his career -- 1998, 1999 and 2002 -- Staley rushed for more than 1,000 yards and he started double-digit games in four seasons. Last summer, he boycotted all of training camp, and that cost him his starting job. Amid rumors that he would be traded, however, Staley worked hard once he reported and coach Andy Reid agreed the Eagles needed him around.Staley started only four games in 2003, the fewest since his rookie campaign, and ran for 463 yards. But when starter Brian Westbrook went down with an injury, Staley regained his starting spot late in the season and performed well through the playoffs. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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