View Full Version : Don't overlook Willie Parker's impact in Super Bowl

02-01-2009, 10:39 AM

Don't overlook Willie Parker's impact in Super Bowl
February 1, 2009

Dennis Dillon

TAMPA, Fla. -- As I look out the 14th-floor window of my hotel this morning, the sun is just starting to open its eye on a downtown that still is sleeping. There's an occasional car moving down the street, a solitary pedestrian walking to church, to a coffee shop or, perhaps, coming back from a long night of revelry.

In a few hours, downtown will be teeming with activity. After all, this is Super Sunday.

The boss wanted a few last words about the big game, which is now less than 12 hours away. You probably have had your fill of Super Bowl 43 buildup by now -- let's just play the friggin' game, you're thinking -- but bear with me for just a little bit more.

Among all the story lines that have been talked about this week -- the Steelers' shutdown defense, the Cardinals' improbable journey, Ben Roethlisberger's burning desire to atone for his lackluster performance three years ago, Larry Fitzgerald's Jerry Rice-like postseason -- the one that has seemed to have been swept under the pregame hype is Willie Parker and the Pittsburgh running game.

Maybe that's because Parker was somewhat of a forgotten man this season.

Parker started out by rushing for 138 and 105 yards in his first two games, but injuries (knee, shoulder) forced him to the sideline for a long stretch during midseason. He finished the regular season with 210 carries for 791 yards and five touchdowns. It was the first time since 2004, his rookie season, that he didn't eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.

But Parker is healthy now, and I think he could be the wild card in tonight's game. The Cardinals are going to try to befuddle Big Ben and the Steelers' passing attack with various defensive looks and blitzes, so that means Fast Willie and the running game must play an integral role.

Skeptics will look at the AFC championship game and wonder how Parker can be effective. After all, Baltimore held him to only 47 yards on 24 carries. But few teams have as suffocating of a run defense as the Ravens.

People might forget that Parker rushed for 146 yards against San Diego in a divisional-round victory. Or that he had 116 yards against the Browns in the regular-season finale.

During that Cleveland game, Parker scored on a 34-yard run. It was the same play the Steelers ran during their Super Bowl 40 victory over Seattle, when Parker scooted 75 yards for a touchdown -- the longest run in Super Bowl history.

A few weeks ago, Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was talking about Parker's late-season revival. Arians said it took a few games for Parker to look like his old self after coming back from a shoulder injury. There were a few plays where Parker managed only 12 or 15 yards before going out of bounds, even though they looked like they could have gone for longer runs.

Finally, in the Cleveland game, Arians saw the second gear return to Parker's legs and the smile return to his face. And he knew Parker was back.

Don't forget -- Parker probably would have won the league rushing title in 2007 if he hadn't suffered a late-season injury. But he broke his fibula early in the next-to-last game of the season against the Rams and finished with 1,316 yards.

It has been a long road back for Parker over the past year. But now he is looking like Fast Willie again.

Don't be surprised if he's the difference in tonight's game.

Dennis Dillon is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at ddillon@sportingnews.com.

02-01-2009, 10:44 AM
FWP will have a very good game today, 105 yd 2 TD :tt: :tt:

Carolina Steelers
02-01-2009, 10:45 AM
I agree I think Willie will have a big game. And he might get the Cadillac after the gm MVP

02-01-2009, 01:06 PM
No question FWP is the x factor tonight and I expect a big game from him.

02-01-2009, 01:16 PM
Just as long as the Parker haters dont make an appearance around here I'll be happy.

02-01-2009, 01:30 PM
Parker and MeMo are X factors tonight.

Of course, the media is raving about "The resurgence of Edgerrin James", while not ballwashing Warner and Fitzgerald of course.

02-01-2009, 03:19 PM
If Willie sniffs a 100-yrd rushing game THIS LOMBARDI JOINS THE FIVE OTHERS BACK IN THE BURGH. MARK IT !!!

02-01-2009, 03:24 PM
Parker and MeMo are X factors tonight.

Of course, the media is raving about "The resurgence of Edgerrin James", while not ballwashing Warner and Fitzgerald of course.

MeMo has been relatively quiet lately. I think he makes noise in this game. :wink02: