Parker healthy, but hasn't run well run vs. Ravens Print
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Thursday, 15 January 2009 23:20
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 PITTSBURGH (AP) -There are no 1,000-yard rushers remaining in the NFL playoffs, so that makes Willie Parker feel like an outsider.
A running back who constantly goes wide to get yardage, Parker hasn't had his typical season in what hasn't been a typical Pittsburgh Steelers offense, one that normally leans heavily on the running game to create room for Ben Roethlisberger to throw.
Slowed by a sore knee and bad shoulder, Parker finished the regular season with a career-low 791 yards. That's only slightly more than half a full season's production for Parker, the one-time undrafted free agent who gained at least 1,200 yards in each of his first three seasons as a starter.
ional playoffs on Sunday while Parker gained 146 yards with two scores.
``He's running the ball a lot tougher, a lot harder,'' Ravens safety Ed Reed said. ``We've definitely got to step our game up.''
Maybe that's why Parker believes any mention of the lack of 1,000-yard runners in Sunday's two NFL conference championship games should be affixed with an asterisk.
``I'm about at full speed and that's really all that counts,'' Parker said.
The Steelers' offense took notice of Tennessee running back Chris Johnson's repeated ability to get outside during Baltimore's 13-10 divisional victory last weekend. Johnson had 72 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries before halftime, but sat out the second half with an ankle injury.
The Titans weren't the same, just as Pittsburgh wasn't during the long stretches this season when Parker was hurt or noticeably slowed.
``He (Johnson) definitely has got a similar running style to what I have,'' Parker said. ``I was definitely encouraged, but you know how Baltimore is with us. They're definitely going to be stingy.''
The Ravens have limited Parker to 2.8 yards per carry during his career. He's never gained more than 63 yards against them, and was held to 47 yards on 14 carries in Pittsburgh's 13-9 win in Baltimore on Dec. 14.
``Sooner or later, it will break,'' Parker said.
nsive coordinator Rex Ryan took umbrage at the suggestions that just because Johnson enjoyed a big first half, he would have had an equally big second half against the NFL's third-ranked rushing defense.
``I heard all the experts say we would have given up 150 yards to the running back from Tennessee,'' Ryan said. ``But remember, he never finished the game for some reason. Whatever the reason is, they can cry all they want. Who cares? We're here. We're still playing.''
The only team that dominated while running the ball against Baltimore this season was the Giants, who had 207 yards rushing and averaged 6.3 yards per carry while winning 30-10 on Nov. 16. Fifteen of Baltimore's 18 opponents haven't rushed for 100 yards.
``They're really smart,'' Steelers center Justin Hartwig said. ``They line up in different fronts, which can confuse you at times. They're smart. You watch (linebacker) Ray Lewis, and he doesn't over-pursue players. He'll look backside and mirror what the running back is doing. They're a disciplined defense and they definitely rely on confusion at times.''
Miami ran for 52 yards against the Ravens two weeks ago, and the Titans' 116 yards came mostly in the first half.
've got to be able to match that intensity.''
The Giants proved a committed team can run against Baltimore. One question is whether the Ravens, led by rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, can score enough to prevent the Steelers from patiently waiting for Parker to break it open.
``The Giants were able to break two long runs,'' Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. ``The rest of the time it was 4 (yards) and 4 and 4. To me, it's not the number, it's the efficiency. You can't go in there and run the ball on second-and-10, run the ball and be in third-and-9. If you run it twice and you are in third-and-5 or less against this team, you have put yourself in pretty good position. If you are running and still back there third-and-9, you are wasting your time.''
 

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