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lamberts-lost-tooth
10-04-2006, 08:27 AM
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette




At this pace, Fast Willie Parker will need a new nickname. How about, Can You Last, Willie Parker?

The Steelers' halfback has heard that question so often he has grown tired of answering it. He may not have to anymore because coach Bill Cowher may let his actions speak for him instead.

After Parker carried a career-high 29 times in the opener against Miami, Cowher said he did not want his young back to carry that heavy a workload too often. Yet Parker ran 31 times against Cincinnati and, after three games, has 71 carries. If he maintains that pace over the course of the season, Parker would finish with 378 carries, second in Steelers history only to Barry Foster's 390 in 1992.

Cowher seems ready to unleash Parker for as many carries as it takes and for as long as he holds up.

"I'm not going to jeopardize trying to win a football game," by limiting his carries, Cowher said. "It's something that I said earlier, but it's something that we have to keep in mind as we go and see how this unfolds. It's something we'll continue to monitor, but I think right now he's fine."

You don't have to be as big as a Bus to be a prolific ballcarrier in the NFL. Parker is 5 feet 10, 209 pounds. The New York Giants' Tiki Barber is 5-10, 200 and in his 10th NFL season. He rushed 357 times (for 1,860 yards) last season and caught 54 passes -- 411 total carries. In his 10th NFL season, Curtis Martin ran 371 times in 2004. He's 5-11, 210. Emmitt Smith not only holds the NFL record for rushing yards, he also holds it with carries at 4,409. He played at 5-10, 216 -- seven pounds more than Parker.

There are many other examples of slighter NFL backs who carried more than their share of the load. It could be the Steelers have one in Parker. Besides his 255 carries last season, he ran 57 more times in their four postseason games. He's not as prolific as a receiver, but he had 18 catches in the regular season, 10 more in the postseason. It adds up to 340 chances with the ball. And he was so exhausted from it all by the end of the season that he snapped off a Super Bowl-record 75-yard touchdown run.

Cowher said yesterday it's not the size of the back but other factors that can determine how often he can carry. Jerome Bettis, who played at a listed 255 pounds, called it "getting skinny" to avoid hits.

"I don't think it's the size as much as when you go through a game and a guy has 29 carries, how many of those were big hits?" Cowher said. "How many times did he run out of bounds or get tripped up? I think you have to look at it subjectively."

Franco Harris, considered a big back for his time at 6-2, 225, was criticized on occasion by Steelers fans for running out of bounds to avoid a hit. Smart backs like Harris and Bettis knew, however, when they needed to take someone on to pick up more yards for their teams and when to live to run another day.

"Is he the type of guy who is running over people 17 or 18 times he carried the ball?" Cowher asked in general terms of backs. "Or is he a guy who got tripped up? Obviously, a guy who's a pounding type of runner, there's going to be more of a lingering effect down the road because of the style of running. It's something you have to look at subjectively coming out of a game."

Parker is not a battering ram and, while running backs take bigger hits more often than players at any other position, he does not seem to take an unusually high number. That could change this season because Cowher has kept Parker in the game when the offense nears the goal line, a job Bettis had before he retired. Cowher said he will talk to Parker after each game to see how he feels and make his decisions accordingly.

"Some games you come out with 23 or 24 carries and you feel great because you didn't have that many big hits," Cowher said. "You come out with 17 or 18 carries between the tackles, and it was a grind because you had three or four guys hitting you every gain. I think you can't monitor just based on carries."

Cowher is ready to help ease the load on Parker, just in case. He said if Najeh Davenport is healthy enough to play this week, he likely will get some carries in San Diego. If he's not healthy, Duce Staley will get them.

"We feel good about the four guys we have," Cowher said, keeping Verron Haynes in the mix as the third-down back. "Duce has looked better and better. He's a legitimate option as well. I go back to last year, we used four guys and needed all four. You can never have enough good running backs."

And, sometimes, you can never run the best of them enough

Btrice
10-04-2006, 11:20 AM
Is it just me, or when reading the title for the first time does it sound like Parker purposely got shot (with a bullet) to prove his durability? :dang: :sofunny:

tony hipchest
10-04-2006, 11:24 AM
Is it just me, or when reading the title for the first time does it sound like Parker purposely got shot (with a bullet) to prove his durability? :dang: :sofunny:lol. it worked for joey porter. i first though a pain injection myself.

floodcitygirl
10-04-2006, 11:27 AM
lol. it worked for joey porter. i first though a pain injection myself.(lol) I was feeling a bit silly, because that was my first thought when I read that title too! :sofunny:

steelfan 92
10-04-2006, 11:53 AM
willie bill be fine, need to keep him between 15 to 25 carries a game. just need to find another back to take maybe 5 to 10 more carries. hopefully davenport could be that guy if he can stay healthy.

lamberts-lost-tooth
10-04-2006, 12:15 PM
(lol) I was feeling a bit silly, because that was my first thought when I read that title too! :sofunny:

I saw the word shot and thought both needle and gun...but saw that Chris Henry wasnt in the article at all ....and realized it meant opportunity.

19ward86
10-04-2006, 03:05 PM
he can handle the carries but we still need a goaline guy.

Hines0wnz
10-04-2006, 03:19 PM
he can handle the carries but we still need a goaline guy.

Referring to the article, Emmitt Smith didnt get taken out during goal line situations. I think we (as fans) have been a little spoiled by having had Jerome and Willie in the backfield the last 2 seasons. That is a luxury most teams dont have and most good backs dont want since they want to score TDs just as much anyone else. The O-line is great and theoretically, they wouldnt have to open as big a hole for Willie near the goal line. :smile: Bottom line, good backs find a way to score, period. Let Willie have some chances instead of trying to replace the image of Jerome barreling through for TDs.