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Friday, September 01, 2006

Steelers deal for RB

Looking to bolster their depth at running back, the Steelers pulled off a deal with the New England Patriots Friday for rookie Patrick Cobbs, the AFC’s second-leading rusher in the preseason.

The 5-9, 210-pound Cobbs, who led the NCAA in rushing in 2003 at North Texas, was acquired for a conditional draft pick in 2007.

What that means about the future of running back Duce Staley remains to be seen.

Staley led the team in rushing in the preseason with 92 yards, but took 42 carries to do so, an average of just 2.2 yards per attempt. His long carry in the preseason was six yards as the 10-year veteran looked sluggish.

The Steelers had hoped that the 5-11, 242-pound Staley would fill the role of short-yardage back that Jerome Bettis held last year behind starter Willie Parker.

Though he’s just 5-9, 210 pounds, Cobbs could fill that role. A former high school power lifting champion, Cobbs led the NCAA in rushing in 2003 with 1,680 yards on 307 carries. He also scored 19 touchdowns. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2004, but came back in 2005 to gain 1,154 yards and score six touchdowns while sharing time with Jamario Thomas, the 2004 NCAA rushing leader.

Cobbs finished his college career as North Texas’ all-time leading rusher with 4,050 yards. He holds the North Texas and Sun Belt Conference career records for rushing yards, rushing touchdowns (36), rushing attempts (818) and all-purpose yards (5,255).

Cobbs also excelled in the Patriots’ four preseason games, finishing second in the AFC in rushing with 188 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries. He also caught seven passes for 115 yards and another score.

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