Where's Willie? Steelers' Parker's not running up to speed Print
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Wednesday, 21 November 2007 13:39
NFL Headline News

 PITTSBURGH (AP) -Only 52 yards against the Jets, one of the NFL's worst teams in stopping the run. Only 31 yards in the second half against Cleveland. Only 42 yards against the Ravens.
This isn't the Willie Parker the Pittsburgh Steelers know. It certainly isn't the Willie Parker the Steelers need.
Parker is second in the NFL with 925 yards rushing and needs 75 yards against Miami on Monday for his third consecutive 1,000-yard season. Parker has six 100-yard games, four in his first five games.
Still, Parker admittedly hasn't been his break-any-run-at-any-time self in a month, or since he ran for 126 yards against the Bengals on Oct. 28.
While he finished with 105 yards against Cleveland on Nov. 11, he was unhappy with the way he ran and his results.
``I left a lot of yards on the field,'' he said.
The Steelers (7-3) left a lot more out there during their surprising 19-16 overtime loss to the Jets on Sunday, when what has been one of the most productive offenses in club history was limited to 263 yards and 151 yards passing.
Ben Roethlisberger was sacked seven times as the Steelers were held to a single touchdown, and Parker's off day factored into the quarterback's rough day.
``Willie means a lot to us,'' Roethlisberger said Wednesday. ``He opens up the pass game. He can create big plays with his feet, and I don't think there are too many backs in this league that can do that.''
Parker never looked comfortable against the Jets, and he isn't exactly sure why. Neither is coach Mike Tomlin, who said earlier this season the Steelers would run Parker ``until the wheels come off.''
``We weren't able to get Willie going,'' Tomlin said. ``It was not just Willie. It is all of us.''
Left guard Alan Faneca said it was difficult to find even a play or two where all went smoothly against the Jets.
``It was a little bit of everybody,'' he said. ``It just seemed like there weren't too many plays where we were all on the same page or we were all getting the job done at the same time. If it wasn't a missed assignment, it wasn't hitting the right hole or running the right route. It was every position.''
The Steelers have played five consecutive weeks since their bye and now must play two games in seven days and their next five in a 25-day span. With an extra day to prepare this week, Parker thought about sitting out Wednesday to keep his legs fresh.
``But I thought, `No, I need to be out there for practice,''' he said. ``Just doing the little things I can do like running hard. This is the time of the year where we're all aching, your body is aching and bruised but sometimes you just have to do what's best for the team. That's what a lot of us have to start doing.''
If Parker has any injury, even if it's only minor, nobody is saying, but he has complained several times of being unable to gain good footing, especially as Heinz Field's grass surface wears down.
Parker wasn't happy that five games will be played this weekend at Heinz Field before Monday night's game: four Pittsburgh-area high school championship games on Friday followed by South Florida-Pitt on Saturday afternoon.
Still, he should like this news: The Steelers, as they once did in the early days of Heinz Field, will lay down a new layer of sod in time for Monday's game.
It's hard to blame the field for the Steelers' recent offensive problems, given they are 5-0 with only one close game there all season.
Parker said the Steelers' three road losses against the Cardinals, Broncos and Jets show how much they need to improve with the playoffs only 1 1/2 months away. None of the three has a winning record.
``That's our downfall,'' he said. ``That's why we're not a great team right now. That's why we're not getting everything done. We're not taking care of business when we have to take care of business.''
 

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