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Backup Tailbacks Steel Win

Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher has made it clear that he's looking for a dependable backup to running back Jerome Bettis.

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  • Richard Huntley tried to make Cowher's job easier Saturday night by rushing for 120 yards and two touchdowns on six carries in a 28-22 exhibition victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

    Huntley, battling George Jones, Fred McAfee and rookie Chris Fuamatu Ma'afala to back up Bettis, capped off two third-quarter drives with touchdown runs of 1 and 47 yards and added a 62-yard burst.

    Bettis, who started the game, finished with 11 yards on six carries.

    Huntley, a second-year pro from Winston-Salem State star who did not play in 1997 after being cut by the Falcons in the preseason, signed with the Steelers in February. On Friday the 13th.

    "I got married on Friday the 13th," Huntley said. "In the second half, I just said I'm going to be the one who steps up to the plate. I don't assess how

    Kordell Stewart and Co. took a backseat to the backup running backs Saturday night. (AP)
    the coach is going to do things. The only thing I can do is go out and do my job."

    Ma'afala, however, didn't let Huntley get too comfortable Saturday, scoring on a 40-yard run in the fourth quarter.

    Cowher indicated its still too close to make a call at running back.

    "I was impressed with Richard and Chris. A lot of things exposed themselves tonight," Cowher said. "They were good things. That's a good problem to have."

    With Rosters to be cut o 60 players by Tuesday, both teams played many of their starters in the first half before putting in reserves.

    A week earlier, the Steelers' starting defense dominated Philadelphia in building a 17-0 lead only to see it squandered late in a 21-17 loss. This time it was Pittsburgh's starters who struggled as Atlanta had little trouble moving the ball in the first half.

    On its first possession, Atlanta used a 17-play drive that culminated with Chris Chandler's 14-yard touchdown pass to Tony Martin on third-and-goal. The drive ate up 9:35.

    Morten Andersen kicked a 22-yard field goal for a 10-0 Atlanta lead. At that point, Atlanta had outgained Pittsburgh 214-16.

    "We're spotty. We're doing some good things, but haven't done them consistently," Cowher said. "I'm not worried about it."

    The Steelers finally showed life offensively after forcing the Falcons to punt with 1:36 left in the half. Kordell Stewart completed 7-of-8 passes for 62 yards out of the two-minute offense and capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Bruener to pull the Steelers within 10-7 at the half.

    Huntley's touchdowns gave Pittsburgh a 21-10 lead after the third quarter.

    "I was disappointed at their drive before the half," Atlanta coach Dan Reeves said. "We had on our two-minute defense. We thought it was pretty poor last year. We need to get better, but they drove it right down and scored."

    Chandler, in his most extensive action of the preseason, was 10-of-15 for 131 yards, with one touchdown and one interception before giving way to backup Tony Graziani at the start of the third quarter. Stewart was 10-of-17 for 90 yards.

    "Chris played exceptionally well. They threw a lot at him but he set up and handled it," Reeves said.

    Two second-half field goals by Andersen and a 14-yard touchdown run by Graziani rallied the Falcons within 28-22, but Atlanta was offside on an onside kick and failed to recover the rekick.

    Steelers cornerback Carnell Lake was knocked out of the game in the first half because of a thigh bruise. Offensive tackle Chris Conrad, a third-round draft pick inserted into the starting lineup, left in the first half with a knee injury. The extent of his injury was not immediately known.

    The game was played in Morgantown, about 75 miles south of Pittsburgh, because both teams had scheduling problems at their home stadiums. It was the first NFL exhibition game in Morgantown since 1968.

    Pittsburgh is 2-2 in the preseason. Atlanta is 1-2.


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