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Old 11-04-2006, 10:24 AM   #1
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Default Harris: Parker insists running game will still carry team

Harris: Parker insists running game will still carry team

By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, November 4, 2006


When Steelers running back Fast Willie Parker turns into Talkative Willie Parker, people listen. And when the Quiet One takes time to discuss the recent problems with the team's running game, he does so with a sad smile.
"So close,'' Parker said.

So frustrating.

Parker hasn't looked like his old self. Since racking up three 100-yard performances in the Steelers' first five games, he's gone two consecutive weeks without reaching that plateau.


With defenses packed like sardines against the run, the Steelers have become Air Cowher of late. But running the ball is what the Steelers do best, and Parker is the team's best running back.

Parker ran 22 times for 83 yards in last week's 20-13 loss at Oakland. He scored on a 25-yard screen pass in the fourth quarter, but he was at a loss to explain why the ground game didn't get off the ground until the fourth quarter. Parker had five carries for 36 yards in the final 15 minutes.

Parker insists things aren't as bad as they appear for the 2-5 Steelers.

He hasn't forgotten how to run with the football. He turns 26 on Nov. 11. His legs are still fresh.

Running the ball and wearing down the opposition is how the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. And Parker believes it's how the Steelers will turn their season around, starting Sunday afternoon against the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field.

"We left a lot of stuff on that field,'' Parker said of the Oakland loss. "It's frustrating, knowing I could do better.

"When you're moving the ball, you're in a good mindset. You just know that teams can't stop you. We haven't been in that rhythm for a long time.''

Parker said the Steelers aren't doing the little things -- missing blocks, Parker not picking up his feet on a run, the offensive line failing to explode off the ball in synchronized harmony.

Added left tackle Marvel Smith: "There's going to be plays we can break. For some reason, those plays seem to be where it's a letdown.''

Parker said the running game could still return to the way it was.

"Guys just have to step up and make plays, including myself,'' Parker said. "It's not about 80-yard runs, 70-yard runs. You can get a 15-yard play, a 10-yard play. Making a block that nobody sees. Somebody comes free that's not your man to sack the quarterback. But you make that play to give (quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger) a chance.''

In the NFL, the first rule of thumb is to always take away the other team's strength, and for the Steelers, that's running the ball.

The Steelers miss the retired Jerome Bettis because he set the tone with a smashmouth style. But Parker, who has 564 yards and five touchdowns on 148 carries this season, has proven his durability. His yards per carry has dipped from 4.7 to 3.8, but he's running inside more and is on pace for well over 300 carries.

Opponents will continue to keep seven, eight and, sometimes, nine in the box to force Roethlisberger to beat them with his arm. The Steelers ground game has been inconsistent, but Oakland was forced to respect it.

There were times when there were holes and Parker missed them, and other times, there were no holes. To their credit, the Steelers stuck with the ground game.

"They want us to beat them passing,'' Parker said. "That's how it's been ever since I've been here. Nothing ever changes.''

It's the Steelers who must change.

"Hold your block one tick longer,'' left guard Alan Faneca said. "All of a sudden, it's a difference between 2 yards and 20 yards.

"When you get a bad taste in your mouth, you're looking for a glass of water to get it out.''

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_478177.html
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Old 11-04-2006, 11:03 AM   #2
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Default Re: Harris: Parker insists running game will still carry team

"Running the ball and wearing down the opposition is how the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. And Parker believes it's how the Steelers will turn their season around, starting Sunday afternoon against the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field."

That's pretty hard to argue with and that's why we brought Kuhn on board again.
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Old 11-04-2006, 11:35 AM   #3
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Default Re: Harris: Parker insists running game will still carry team

I think the Steelers get too caught up in trying to establish their identity as a 'smashmouth' running team - the best coaches adapt to what they have on the roster.

The problem has not been so much the running game, but the passing game which is not forcing opponents to respect it.

If Ben could string together 3 good games through the air then things would open up on the ground a lot more for Willie.

The O-line is obviously havings its share of problems and has been consistently...well.... inconsistent.

The bottom line is, Willie shouldn't have to run for 100 yards every week for the Steelers to win - you have to have a plan B when the other team shuts your 'A' game down.

By starting the season with Staley basically PUP and no viable alternative the Steelers dont have the options to mix up offensive base formations.

Of course, with all the turnovers its hard enough to get sufficient TOP in order to give two different backs a good share of the ball.

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