Haynes wants the darn ball

Verron Haynes

LATROBE – Verron Haynes used to wear t-shirts to get his messages across at training camp. Now he just says what's on his mind, and what's on his mind is Wednesday night's practice at Latrobe Stadium.

"Goal line, baby," Haynes said. "You'd better be there, and don't take the cameras off. You might miss something. I've got something to prove."

Haynes wants the football and he wants it at the goal line. He also wants it on third down, and of course first down, but that's the province of Willie Parker -- for now.

When Haynes considered free agency last March, he wanted to play for a team that would let him compete for a starting halfback job. A few days later he signed with the Steelers. Did the Steelers tell him they'd use him more often?

"I think I'm getting used well," Haynes said. "Obviously it was a big concern coming back, with me getting an opportunity to showcase what I could do. Wednesday night will be the first opportunity to show that in goal line."

It's one of the more entertaining drills of training camp. The first teams line up at the five-yard line in a full-contact, last-chance power drive to cross the end zone. And with Jerome Bettis gone, the short-yardage job is open and Haynes, a 5-foot-10, 222-pound sculpted brick outhouse, wants the job over Duce Staley.

In four years as a pro, Haynes has scored only three rushing touchdowns as the Steelers' third-down back. As a senior at the University of Georgia, Haynes scored seven touchdowns.

Coach Bill Cowher was asked if Haynes would receive first crack as the goal-line back and Cowher was non-committal. "We're considering everybody," Cowher said. "We'll see what our options are and go from there."

Haynes, though, is excited. "I'm out here to compete and get that job," he said. "They haven't told me anything but that's what I'm preparing for. I want it."

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