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Elway sheds rookie image; Steeler provides home; 49er in a rush

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Rookie quarterback John Elway of the Denver Broncos, trying to learn a game that is different from the one he played in college, has not always called the correct offensive formation this season for plays sent in from the bench. That has been the chief reason for most of the sideline turbulence lately between Elway and Head Coach Dan Reeves, who says that sometimes Elway doesn't listen to his instructions carefully enough.

But John may have gotten the training wheels off his career permanently Sunday with three touchdown passes in a 21-19 win over Baltimore. That victory improved the Broncos' won-lost record to 9-6 and, with Buffalo's loss to San Francisco, put Denver in the playoffs (as a wild card) for the first time since 1979.

Steeler with a heart of gold

Cornerback Mel Blount, the Pittsburgh Steelers' all-time leader in interceptions with 56, has turned his Georgia farm into a home for teen-age boys who have been in trouble with the law. Blount currently has four kids, ranging in age from 12 through 17, living on his 2,700-acre spread, where they help with the work along with attending public school.

''I think one of life's biggest blessings is growing up on a farm,'' Mel explained. ''Too many kids today don't have any responsibilities or any regular chores spelled out for them. But my daddy always kept us busy. At the time I thought he was just working our socks off for nothing, but now I know better. We were busy and we didn't have time to get into trouble.I never heard of drugs when I was growing up on the farm.''

Blount's mother and brothers also live year-round on his farm. Good man in a rush

One of the best things the division-leading San Francisco 49ers have going for them is non-regular Fred Dean, an aggressive defensive end who is at the leading edge of most of his team's pass rushes. The 49er coaching staff picks spots for Dean's special talents, much the way a baseball manager would select a pinch hitter.

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