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Old 08-22-2005, 12:26 AM   #1
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Post Parker moving up on depth chart...

He goes by the nickname "Fast" Willie Parker, but he's also been "Patient" Willie Parker this training camp.
And, because of that, the second-year tailback is pushing for playing time with the Steelers. He might even be pushing for a starting job.

OK, maybe grabbing the No. 1 spot ahead of Duce Staley, who is out with a knee injury at least until the season opener, and Pro Bowler Jerome Bettis is a little much to ask of Parker.

But he has been impressive, particularly in a 17-3 win over Miami in the second preseason game Saturday night.

Parker broke off a 37-yard run early that demonstrated his ability to break outside, and he later went 21 yards, slipping through a hole and making two tacklers miss before sprinting to the right sideline.

Bill Cowher said Parker is the "one guy on this team" with the ability to take a handoff and break a game-busting run.

Parker finished with 58 yards on six carries with an average of 9.7 per rush. He also turned a dump pass from Ben Roethlisberger into a 20-yard gain on a second-and-17 play.

"I think Willie has shown he has the ability to become a starter, and if he continues to make the plays he's been making, he certainly merits consideration for playing time," Steelers offesnive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. "He has two very good players in Jerome and Duce, who are proven guys, and even though Willie has done well in the preseason, he hasn't proven himself in the regular season, and that's just going to be a matter of time. But certainly, with the excitement he brings, he's given consideration."

Parker, 5-foot-10, 209 pounds, has a long way to go before he logs the carries or numbers posted by Staley and Bettis. Staley has 5,367 career yards on 1,392 attempts, while Bettis has 13,294 (fifth all-time in NFL) on 3,369 attempts (third all-time).

Parker has 186 yards on 32 carries. He certainly can't compare to the vets in front of him, but Parker showed sparks in the regular-season finale last season by posting 102 yards on 19 attempts against the Bills in Buffalo.

"The biggest thing is, he's being more patient when he gets the ball," Whisenhunt said of Parker, who is 33 pounds lighter than Staley and 46 pounds lighter than Bettis. "Last year, the first thing he was doing was trying to outrun everybody. I think he's a stronger runner (this season). He had a couple of runs (Saturday) where he got off of arm tackles and got extra yards. I think the biggest thing with his inside running is his patience. Willie is so fast that when he sees something, he always wants to try to run too fast to it."

Parker's speed (4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash) has caught the attention of his teammates.

"Man, he looked explosive," wideout Hines Ward said after the Dolphins win. "Every time he put his hands on the ball, he kept making plays. We knew about Willie. All the guys were like, 'Man, he got an opportunity and he took full advantage of it.' Every time he's in there, he's doing something positive. A lot of guys are noticing him; he's starting to catch ha lot of the coaches' eyes too. He's going to be a good one."
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