Tuesday, September 12, 2006
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Najeh Davenport, as halfbacks go, is as big as a bus, and that is a role the Steelers would like him to fill.
They won't ask him to run for 10,571 yards over the next decade, or have his own television show and become one of the most popular players in team history. They would settle for some production at the goal line and some relief carries in the second half for starter Willie Parker.
They also would not mind if his last game is played in his hometown, just the way it was for Jerome Bettis in February. Davenport grew up in South Florida, home of Super Bowl XLI.
"I think they brought me in to exemplify some of the things they've been missing that the Bus brought," said Davenport, who is 6 feet 1 and weighs 247 pounds before lunch.
The Steelers thought they had that in Duce Staley, one reason they made no moves to fill the spot of the retired Bettis. But when the coaches saw Staley in training camp display little of the leg pop he had two years ago, a mini-panic set in.
The Steelers traded for undrafted rookie halfback Patrick Cobbs Sept. 1 from New England, then cut him a week later, which means they owe nothing to the Patriots because of the conditions of the deal.
The Steelers on Friday signed Davenport, who came to town Thursday, after his agent also fielded calls from the Dolphins and Cowboys. A big, hard-running back, Green Bay released him last week, believing his history of injuries would continue because of his upright style of running that makes for an easy target. Coincidentally, the Packers kept on their roster halfback Noah Herron, who was drafted by the Steelers last year and put on their practice squad.
"I'm ecstatic about the opportunity to come to a great facility, a great organization," Davenport said. "You have a big back like I am. They've been known for their big backs the last five, 10 years."
And more. The Steelers ran more often than any other team each of the past two seasons.
"I have the jitters, man," Davenport said. "This is what I do."
Davenport could dress for the Steelers' game Monday night in Jacksonville.
"That's the plan," he said. "I came and met with them this morning and probably will meet tomorrow and go from there. I have a quick grasp of stuff."