View Full Version : Parker fast becoming his old self

01-26-2009, 06:30 AM
Column: Parker fast becoming his olf self
By Mike Bires, Times Sports Staff

Earlier this season when he was down in the dumps, Willie Parker dug deep within his soul to find an extra source of motivation. That’s when he posted a sign at his locker room stall that simply read “Perseverance.”

For the first time in his pro career, he was being doubted.

With injuries mounting and the Steelers’ run game stagnating, there were whispers that Parker’s incredible run was coming to an end.

Late last season, his bid to become the NFL rushing king ended when he broke his leg in St. Louis. In a loss at Philadelphia early this season, he sprained his knee and missed four games. In his first game back from the knee injury, he suffered a shoulder injury that forced him out of another game.

Parker’s frustration escalated to the point that he selfishly took a shot at offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Parker suggested that one of the reasons for the struggling running attack was Arians prefers to run out of multiple tight-end sets rather than use a fullback as a lead blocker.

The next day, coach Mike Tomlin sternly criticized Parker and reminded him that the goal is to win a Lombardi Trophy, not a rushing title.

With 791 yards during the regular season, Parker obviously didn’t come close to the rushing crown. His streak of three straight 1,000-yard seasons and two straight Pro Bowl appearances was over.

But like the Steelers as a whole during some tough, hard-fought games down the homestretch, Parker persevered through his most trying season since college — when coaches at North Carolina never gave him a legitimate chance to be a starter.

In the second half of this season, Parker had his ups and downs. He had a couple 100-yard games sandwiched around a few when he struggled to get 30. But most importantly, he returned to good health and was basically injury free once the playoffs started.

So, heading into Super Bowl XLIII, he feels like the “Fast Willie” of old.

He kept working hard. He remained patient. He persevered. He healed in more ways than one.

In a playoff win over San Diego, he gouged the Chargers’ defense with 146 yards and two TDs.

A week later in the AFC Championship Game, Baltimore held Parker to 47 yards. But he still carried 24 times against the hard-hitting Ravens. So, even though the gains were minimal, the Steelers stayed committed to the run.

In those two games, Parker carried 51 times. That’s his highest two-game total since the first two games of the season.

Now he’s back at the Super Bowl for the second time.

You may remember the last time the Steelers played in a Super Bowl. In that 21-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks in SB 40, Parker struggled in the first half. He carried six times for 11 yards. His runs went for 0, 0, 6, 1, 3 and 1.

But patience has been a virtue ever since Parker earned a roster spot as an undrafted free agent in 2004. Many times, he’s been held in check before breaking loose for a long, electrifying run.

The Steelers led 7-3 when they got the ball to open the second half. On first down, Ben Roethlisberger threw incomplete. On second down, Roethlisberger handed off to Parker, who ran off right tackle. He quickly burst through a hole and, 75 yards later, he was somersaulting in the end zone for the longest run in Super Bowl history.

Could something like that happen again Sunday when the Steelers play the Arizona Cardinals?

“I’m at full speed and that’s all that really counts,” is all Parker had to say.

In regular-season play, the Steelers are 22-3 when Parker rushes for 100 yards or more.

But here’s a better stat: Parker has started six playoff games in his career, and the Steelers won each of them.

Mike Bires can be reached online at mbires@timesonline.com

01-26-2009, 08:55 AM
FWP is gonna have to play big for us on Sunday. Very happy that he is 100% again and running with confidence. If he rushes for big yardage then maybe he could put a sign up in his locker that states "Super Bowl XLIII MVP".

01-26-2009, 09:01 AM
Nice read, and I agree Mark. I think if Willie has a big game the Steelers should win, and I think that Willie has to have a Big game for the Steelers to win.
Willie is the key to the Steelers offensive success of keeping the ball away from that potent Cardinals offense.

01-26-2009, 09:17 AM
This week Willie will get more runs in. This isn't the Ravens Defense and it will be spring like weather. Willie will cut loose and Moore will pound the ball. I also look for Heath to have a big game. Ben will spread things out a bit, then will cut loose to Holmes, Nate, and Ward on a couple plays.

Run Willie, run!

01-26-2009, 10:08 AM
Willie is the key to the Steelers offensive success of keeping the ball away from that potent Cardinals offense.

You are absolutely correct. I know our defense can shut down their offense if needed, but IMO the key will be for FWP and Ben to keep them on the sidelines with long drives that results in TDs.

stlrz fan
01-26-2009, 10:10 AM
FWP has the fire to prove that he is the real deal. He knows that he had his detractors and a big performance in the SB can get him back to full credibility. He is ready and will have a great day.