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BlitzburghRockCity 12-07-2005 12:25 AM

Fast Willie back as the starter and other tidbits...

Willie Parker remains the starting halfback on a team grappling to regain its footing in the ground game.

Parker has started all but one of the Steelers' 12 games, missing only their Nov. 13 game against Cleveland because of a sprained ankle. He leads the Steelers with 788 yards rushing and has a 4.5-yard-per-carry average.

There have been calls in the media for Duce Staley and/or Jerome Bettis to replace him. Those two helped carry the Steelers to the No. 2 rushing team in the NFL last season. But coach Bill Cowher said yesterday that he would stick with Parker.

"That's where the thinking is today as we speak," Cowher said.

Parker ran for 71 yards on 15 carries Sunday against the Bengals, but Cowher pulled him from the game in favor of Bettis after his second fumble, early in the fourth quarter. Parker returned later in the quarter.

Cowher said he was comfortable with Parker's effectiveness "as long as he doesn't put the ball on the ground."

"If he puts the ball on the ground, he and I will be talking like we're talking here," Cowher said. "He'll be standing next to me."

The Steelers lost all five games in which they did not reach 100 yards rushing this season. They are 22-0 the past two seasons when they rush for 100 yards as a team.

Parker led the NFL in rushing with 272 yards after two games but has topped 100 only once since, with 131 Oct. 23 at Cincinnati.

Staley has been used as the third-down back the past two games, replacing Verron Haynes, who has not suited up since Nov. 20 in Baltimore. That could change this Sunday against Chicago. Cowher would not divulge his plans for his other backs this week.

Staley has six carries for 8 yards in the past two games and has played in only five games this season. Bettis has 16 carries for 22 yards in his past three games.

Roethlisberger probable

Cowher said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's right thumb was not reinjured in Sunday's loss to the Bengals and he listed him as probable for this week, just as he was all last week

The coach would not say if Roethlisberger had a broken thumb, as some reports have suggested.

"I am not going to get into the details of it," Cowher said. "I don't think it would serve any purpose at this point. He is playing. What difference does it make?"

Asked if Roethlisberger were more comfortable throwing, Cowher said: "I can't speak for him. He played the whole game the other day."

Weather is a factor

Cowher blamed the cold weather for Jeff Reed's shorter and lower kickoffs Sunday.

"It's a problem for everybody, something called weather," Cowher said. "At this time of year, the ball does not travel as far and as high."

Cowher said he'd instructed his kickoff team that it must adjust the way it approaches its coverage because of the lack of hang time and distance caused by the cold weather.

The coach also said the direction of the wind at Heinz Field perplexed him.

"It changes a lot. A lot of times it is going through our bench, and then sometimes it is going left or right. I have had to sit and wait to see if we win or lose a coin toss to make a decision. It is really a little bit of a guessing game.

"It is a great place to play. I know people coming in here are not going to be able to figure it out because we still haven't figured it out yet."

Batch No. 2

Charlie Batch will practice today, and if he shows he has overcome the injury to his right hand, which was broken Nov. 13, he will back up Roethlisberger as the No. 2 quarterback.

Injury report

Cowher issued his injury report yesterday: OT Marvel Smith (ankle) is out; OT Max Starks (shoulder), Batch (hand) and LB Andre Frazier (hamstring) are questionable; Parker (elbow), Bettis (knee), Roethlisberger (thumb), G Kendall Simmons (back) and DE Aaron Smith (knee) are probable.

Koopa 12-07-2005 12:36 AM

Re: Fast Willie back as the starter and other tidbits...
willie avg 4.5 a carry it don't even seem like he does......but i want a back to get a 1,000 yards rushing this season so i guess keep starting him, but at least let him get into a rythm so he can get more yards. i don't like this switching up thing anymore cause it ain't worth a damn

well i have talked a little shit about the kickoffs and i don't think it's the weather cause it was like that in the beginning of the season, reed is a good kicker but we need a kicker with a boot for the kickoffs IMO

and good to see batch is getting better, i'll feel a lot more comfortable with him as number two cause maddox isn't even worthy of backup qb on practice squad for a CFL team

Prosdo 12-07-2005 01:04 AM

Re: Fast Willie back as the starter and other tidbits...
Glad to hear Charlie is back as number 2. As much as I like Willie I am a little concerned about him starting. He has been seeming less effective although I know the O-line has not been up to par. I really would like to see Duce start with Jerome backing him.

BlitzburghRockCity 12-07-2005 01:06 AM

Re: Fast Willie back as the starter and other tidbits...
willie stats are deceiving becuz he breaks long runs on a regular basis..which is good, its great to get the defense trying to chase air when he runs by them..

but pounding it out that gotta have it 3rd down and 2 , Im just not sold on him enough.. he runs hard I'll give him that..but sometimes u just gotta make your own holes.

Koopa 12-07-2005 01:44 AM

Re: Fast Willie back as the starter and other tidbits...
you know this might be another example of cowhers stubborness to change might cost us yet another season.....duce should be the starter cause willie is not getting the job done, and going against the bears willie probably won't produce again and he ain't gonna get what i want him to get and that is a 1,000 yards so i probably would have to go with either duce or bettis as the starter and let willie do what he was supposed to be and that's the third down back.....damn i wish ben would've been healthy all season cause we wouldn't be in this damn mess

BigDude66687 12-07-2005 01:53 AM

Re: Fast Willie back as the starter and other tidbits...
I think that we should stay with Parker, Bettis has looked awful the past 3 weeks, Staley should move up to Parkers back up, Parker is runnin well when he gets a hole, it isnt his fault that our oline is disintegrating around him

BlitzburghRockCity 12-07-2005 02:09 AM

Re: Fast Willie back as the starter and other tidbits...
The bears defense is #1 in the leage if I remember right.. running wont be easy but we have to do it.

The reason Bus' stats have sucked is because Cowher refuses to play him.. he'll bring him in a for a few carries and then yank him again... If Im jerome, again I am seriously wondering why I came back this year. He's a team guy and will never admit that but u have to think he is thinking that atleast alittle.

Prosdo 12-07-2005 02:32 AM

Re: Fast Willie back as the starter and other tidbits...
Jerome seems to always create a spark when he comes in. I have to wonder if he'll even be active this week. I kinda think the Steelers will have Haynes in to help with special teams since they need the help.

Rotorhead 12-07-2005 04:51 AM

Re: Fast Willie back as the starter and other tidbits...
I think the problems with WP are not so much him as they are the Oline. Bettis or Staley cant get good yards when they are tackled in the backfield. When our line starts blocking again, Parker will start getting 100+ yards a game again IMO. I think Bettis or Staley would be fine if left in for a full game also, but it is hard to get into a groove when it is your 15th carry for the season! The musical runningbacks thing is definately not working.
(I sure wish Bettis would have been our premier back for the season though) Right now our game killers are the Oline and the Spc Teams, and we need to get those fixed this week or you can stick a fork in us. On another note, I am glad Essex is getting the experience, he is getting better everygame, and I hope after our win in Chicago we get Kemo 3games worth of experience for our playoff run!

Suitanim 12-07-2005 10:38 AM

Re: Fast Willie back as the starter and other tidbits...
The HUGE news is that Batch is back as #2, so, if Ben gets injured, we don't automatically have to lose the rest of our games.

Trai Essex starting again is a concern against the Bears D.

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