Depending on your age, you can relate to certain duos, comprehending how unbalanced one is without the other.

Depending on your age, you can relate to certain duos, comprehending how unbalanced one is without the other.

Andy and Barney. Simon and Garfunkel. Starsky and Hutch. Swann and Stallworth. Bert and Ernie. Steinbrenner and Billy. Jordan and Pippen. Penn and Teller. Bill and Hillary. Manny and Poppy.

Don’t look now, Jerry McGuire, but “you complete me” is getting to be the only way to travel in NFL backfields.

Pittsburgh got to the promised land with “The Bus” and “Fast Willie,” but skidded after Jerome Bettis retired. The Steelers think they can get back, spending a first-round pick on Rashard Mendenhall (Illinois) so Willie Parker can have proper company.

The Steelers did it even though Willie Parker finished third in the AFC in rushing. They did it because the smart money is betting on one-two punches.

The Bears did well when they had one. They reached their first Super Bowl since 1985 with Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson rushing for 1,857 yards. They fared poorly with the wrong duo; Benson and Adrian Peterson totaled 1,184 yards and a lame 3.4 yards per carry.

Maybe if they’d teamed Benson with the right Adrian Peterson ...

The other one was rookie of the year for the Vikings in 2007. He joined Chester Taylor to rack up 2,185 yards in an uptick season that included two wins and 51 points against the Bears. It was hardly all “AP.” Taylor rushed 844 yards at 5.4 per carry, with seven touchdowns.

Do you sometimes wonder what’s the point of your team’s rookie seventh-round pick? Giants fans don’t. Their team would not have reached the Super Bowl without Round 7 rookie Ahmad Bradshaw.

Bradshaw and 2005 Round 4 pick Brandon Jacobs combined for five touchdowns in the three games that got the Giants to the Patriots. Talk about bang for the buck.

Jerry Jones isn’t waiting around for late-round steals. He burned a first-round pick on some sizzle, running back Felix Jones, to go with the substance of Marion Barber (4.8 per-carry average, 10 TDs during a 13-3 2007).

The Bears will try to bolster Benson with Matt Forte, plucked out of Tulane in Round 2 last Saturday. Baltimore thinks it can bounce back with Round 2 pick Ray Rice (Rutgers) coming aboard as a sidekick to Willis McGahee. Just as teams that develop a great duo can rise, teams that don’t keep them can fall.

The Saints got hot when Reggie Bush was breaking in behind Deuce McAllister. They collapsed when McAllister went down, and Bush looked like a bust on his own.

The Chiefs sensed a Super Bowl window opening when Priest Holmes was still going great guns and Larry Johnson was rising. Holmes’ injuries coincided with a fade from 10-6 to 9-7 to 4-12.

We mentioned the Bears.

It’s a bull market for duos. Everybody wants one.

In with the old?

The winning formula in forming a one-two running punch seems to be teaming a player entering or in his prime with a younger back.

Shaun Alexander is trying to convince the Bengals - for the right price, of course - to try a different approach, using older guys. Alexander will turn 31 in August. The theory would be that Alexander and Rudi Johnson, likewise coming off a miserable year, could run their younger selves without a heavy workload.

Johnson will turn 29 in October but has taken a pounding. Alexander averaged 3.5 yards per carry in 2007, Johnson 2.9.  Alexander is a solid citizen less than three years from being NFL MVP. The Bengals could use some good PR.

Some extra Mayo

It’s almost unfair that a 16-0 team had a high enough first-round pick to pick Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo, a linebacker who will help right away.

The Patriots weren’t finished injecting youth into an aging group, spending a Round 3 pick on speedy Shawn Crable of Michigan.

A story in the Boston Herald said Crable’s mom “ran out to the shopping mall in Massillon, Ohio (to buy Patriots apparel).”

Massillon doesn’t have a mall, but it does have football tradition the size of Mall of America. Crable played for the high school that made Paul Brown famous. Brown was a mentor to Steve Belichick, Bill’s dad.

Bill’s clues

President Bush welcomed the Giants to the White House this week in recognition of their Super Bowl upset of New England.

“The Patriots weren’t there,” David Letterman said in his Fridday monologue, “but they videotaped it.”

Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com.