View Full Version : Harris: Parker shows burst in possible finale

01-04-2010, 12:04 AM
Harris: Parker shows burst in possible finale

By John Harris
Monday, January 4, 2010

MIAMI - Willie Parker said goodbye the right way on Sunday.

It was 2007 all over again, when Parker led the NFL in rushing until breaking his leg late in the season.

Or 2005-2006, with the Steelers putting the ball and the outcome of games in Parker's capable hands.

Time after time in the closing five minutes, with starting running back Rashard Mendenhall watching from the sideline, the Steelers called Parker's number, choosing the run over the pass in a surprising about-face.

Parker was a fixture in the Steelers' final drive, which resulted in Jeff Reed's 33-yard field goal in a 30-24 win over the Miami Dolphins.

"They just said, 'Three-nine. Get in there,' and a smile came to my face,'' Parker said of his late-game insertion.

You remember Parker - No. 39 - don't you?

He's the third-leading rusher in Steelers history, with 5,378 career yards on 1,253 carries and 24 touchdowns.

His 75-yard burst against Seattle in Super Bowl XL is the longest run from scrimmage in Super Bowl history.

Left tackle Max Starks, who played right tackle against the Seahawks, still recalls the run with vivid clarity.

"Willie and I came in the league together as snot-nosed rookies," Starks said. "We fought though a lot of adversity and a lot of changes. I look back to our second year. He became a starter, and I became a starter, and we won the Super Bowl.

"I remember blocking down on (Seattle linebacker) Lofa Tatupu and springing Willie on that touchdown run. You look back and say that was a hell of a run.''

And now it's over. Parker, an unrestricted free agent, likely played his final game with the Steelers on Sunday.:crying01:

Given that Mendenhall was a first-round pick a year ago and became a starter this season, Parker is no longer a good fit in the offense.

"I'm a starter,'' said Parker, who carried 12 times for 91 yards against the Dolphins. "Until I hang up the pads, that's what I'm going to look at myself as.''

The more Parker spoke, the more emotional he became.

He addressed the team that brought him in as an undrafted free agent from North Carolina, and the fans who knew him as Fast Willie Parker.

"If that's the last you see of Willie Parker, I want to thank the organization, thank the fans for embracing me," he said. "Knowing the college career that I had, I came here and really did some things. I had six great years with the Steelers.''( :hatsoff: Very classy Willie. - mesa)

The last two years weren't so great for Parker.

Slowed by knee and shoulder injuries, Parker rushed for 791 yards in 2008 following three consecutive 1,200-yard-plus seasons.

This season was much worse for Fast Willie, who - because of a painful case of turf toe - at times resembled Slow Willie.

Parker rushed for only 389 yards and failed to run for a touchdown for only the second time in his career.

"It was tough," he said. "At times, I was frustated, and I really felt like hurting somebody. But I talked to my teammates, I prayed a lot, I talked to my family, and they kind of kept me up, kept a smile on my face.

"I love these guys, I love this organization. I'm a Steeler right now. Just see what happens in the future.''

Parker displayed yesterday he can still play the game. His burst was back, and he hit the holes with speed and power.

His 34-yard sprint late in the contest was his longest run of the season.

"If Willie's not back next year, I''ll be cheering for him - I'll always be a fan of No. 39,'' Starks said. "You give him a two-back situation (with another team), I think he can be a great back.''

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

01-04-2010, 12:06 AM
Yea.... shows a burst after basically resting all season ......

01-04-2010, 12:08 AM
I wouldn't mind seeing Willie come back, but I don't think it will happen.

01-04-2010, 01:08 AM
I'm gonna miss him, he had some great performances in the Black and Gold. Mendenhall is our guy now though. Willie is still decent but the thing that bothers me most about him is how easily he goes down after contact. It seems like the slightest arm tackle to the shins trips him up enough to get him to the ground.

01-04-2010, 01:36 AM
Pretty good audition heading into free agency.

Performance will stick in the minds of a few teams who are looking for a RB

Looked good in black and gold for the past 6 years FWP. Best of luck wherever you may land for 2010

Angus Burgher
01-04-2010, 01:37 AM
I've been tough on Parker over the years but I think that a lot of his struggles were more the result of poor offensive run scheming by the coaching staff than his own ability. I say this because I see the same problems with Mendenhall.

If the Dolphins game is the final word on Parker as a Steeler, I'm glad he went out on a high note. It ticks me off that his TD got wiped out by an iffy holding penalty, but whatever. He still showed a lot of class and heart on that last drive. His QB was hurt, and he knew it rested on his shoulders to put the game away. Congrats to Willie for doing just that. Wherever he ends up, he'll always be a Steeler.

Galax Steeler
01-04-2010, 05:13 AM
I wouldn't mind seeing Willie come back, but I don't think it will happen.

I don't think you will see that either he is wanting a starting roll somewhere and he will probably find it.

01-04-2010, 05:14 AM
On that TD run that was called back, It looked as if his turf toe was acting up. He was running akwardly.

01-04-2010, 05:46 AM
I would jump for joy if Willie resigned for us. A two-back system with him and mendenhall would be GREAT.

But I am just not sure if it is going to happen. Matter of fact, I quite doubt it.

So here's to you Willie. Thanks for 6 great years... for the excitement, and for being part of 2 SB runs with this team.

If you find your way back next year.. welcome aboard.

01-04-2010, 05:54 AM
Good luck FWP. I hope you hit the big payday.

01-04-2010, 06:16 AM
willie was awesome...

01-04-2010, 09:26 AM
I don't think you will see that either he is wanting a starting roll somewhere and he will probably find it.

Steelers West.

01-04-2010, 09:33 AM
Steelers West.

Anyone ever say this to a Cardinals fan? What is their reaction?

01-04-2010, 09:58 AM
Anyone ever say this to a Cardinals fan? What is their reaction?

... gotta find a Cardinal fan first...


if this was Parker's last game as a Stiller, I'll always remember him as classy, in-that he didn't cause problems when he was demoted, like so-many other players do in this day-n-age


01-04-2010, 10:39 AM
Every game I repeat myself stating that I would love them to resign Parker and use him for a two back attack with Mendenhall.

I know that is more than likely not going to happen and it is just time for him to move on and we can build around Mendy.

01-04-2010, 12:36 PM
So long, Parker. If anyone signs you to be a starting RB, I hope they're happy with 20 yards against any decent opponent.

It's too bad, because I actually came to think he was an ok running back the way they were using him toward the end of the season. But you want a starter's job and a starter's paycheck, then please, do it somewhere else.

01-04-2010, 01:17 PM
Am i the only one who realizes the run is the key in saving this game?Everyone says this is a pass first team but now we see how important the run is.I love mendy but face it the guys running style doesn't fit our offensive line, parker worked beautifully.If parker will be released this offseason then we need to rebuild the O-line to fit mendy.We have seen the run struggle all year long and willie comes in for one series and blows up the dolphin D.Too bad we didn't call three-nine in the weeks before!

01-04-2010, 02:13 PM
I don't think you will see that either he is wanting a starting roll somewhere and he will probably find it.

Yeah but who's gonna put up with a RB thats hurt all the time, no benefit there. He might end up 2nd or 3rd string at best.