Join Date: Jul 2005
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Parker begins season in fast lane for Steelers
to me this is a very good story. it's good that parker is learning from one of the best, and has learned to be patinent when running. well parker used to eat like i eat now, lol. i can't wait for him to get out there and just break a long ass run, it's going to be exciting, well only if they show it on highlight reels cause i can only see it on that nfl game tracker thing.
Jerome Bettis taught Willie Parker many things right down to how to eat a good steak.
"We were eating last year at a restaurant," Parker said yesterday. "I was like chopping at my food and cutting at it with the wrong hand, with my fork and knife. He started laughing. He said calm down, it's not going anywhere, do it like this."
Bettis taught Parker patience, a lesson he's applying this week as his first NFL start approaches and an entirely new kind of table is set for him.
"It's a lot coming at your plate," said an admittedly nervous Parker. "A lot of people are expecting a lot of things out of me."
With Bettis out and Duce Staley possibly out, Parker -- with an assist from Verron Haynes -- must carry the torch for the Steelers' ground game, which set up everything for them last season. He has 32 official NFL carries to his credit, or fewer times than Bettis ran against the Eagles or Giants last season.
Those 32 carries produced 186 yards, including 102 on 19 tries in one game against Buffalo. And Bettis says Parker has improved this year -- he averaged more than 10 yards a carry in the preseason -- because he learned his lessons well. Fast Willie Parker learned not to be too fast.
"Usually, a younger player has a tendency to be quick," Bettis explained. "And really fast guys have a tendency to be overly fast. What happens is, because of that speed, it puts them at a disadvantage because they have to be able to see it and go. You can get there too fast and it hasn't developed. You have to teach it, teach it, preach it, preach it. Patience."
Don't get there before your blockers. Slow down, then slam through the hole. Contrary to popular opinion, Parker is not a man who earns his living on the outside. Can he hit it between the tackles? That's mostly what he does and why he initially resisted the nickname dropped on him last season.
"I didn't like it at first, Fast Willie, because everybody thinks 'he's just fast,' and they start believing he can't run between the tackles."
But the 51-yard run against the Redskins? It came through the left guard-tackle hole. The 58-yard run Jan.2 against Buffalo was similar.
"You aren't going to break anything in the NFL outside," Parker said. "That's just the way it's designed. That's where the longest breaks come from, between the tackles."
Plus, the Steelers won't change their style for him. They ran 61 percent of the time last season, more often than any NFL team in the past two decades, and they had so much success because of it, they will enter this season with the same philosophy.
"The one thing we started last year was that we were going to be a tough, physical offense, and we were going to run the football, and we were going to do what it takes to win," said coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. "That paid off for us."
The question now is, can 5-foot-10, 209-pound Willie Parker bang into the line as many times as that might require in this offense? Bettis ran 33 times against the Eagles, 36 against the Giants.
"We're going to go until he can't go," Whisenhunt said. "Certainly, there's a question he's not as big as those guys. One thing Willie has shown is toughness. I know he's a tough kid, you only hope or assume he will hold up. If he can't, we'll put somebody else in there who will help carry the load."
Parker might be able to handle it, but no one knows, not even him, because he has never had to do it. He was not a full-time starter at North Carolina and he credits scout Dan Rooney, son of the team's chairman, for recruiting him to come to the Steelers after he went undrafted last year.
"He stayed with me," Parker said. "He'd call me; every week I'd hear from him. We had a good relationship before I even got here.
"I didn't hesitate, I threw all the other offers away. I said I'm going to Pittsburgh, I'm going to make my destiny. I'm going to get away from North Carolina and I'm never going to look back."
People at home told him to watch himself, that the NFL was a selfish league where everyone looks out for himself. He found it much different because, upon his arrival, Bettis and Staley taught him the ropes and embraced him. He saw two veteran backs essentially competing for the same job but who became friends.
"I think it's important for him because he's the type of guy who's going to have a lot of success, he has a lot of talent," Staley said. "I think he's going to be right up there with us. So for him to see that, once he gets in those shoes, he'll know how to handle it."
When Staley and Bettis return to health, Parker says he would be happy to step aside and play a different role if that's what they want.
"I think they'll use me and play me on certain downs," Parker said. "If it's just third down I'll be happy. I came from a rough background, a rookie free agent. I'm not expecting to take those guys' spots."
On Sunday, though, they expect him to do just that.