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|12-21-2007, 05:30 AM||#1|
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Surprise Steelers stars step up when needed
Surprise Steelers stars step up when needed
By John Harris
Friday, December 21, 2007
ST. LOUIS -- The Steelers did what they were supposed to do Thursday night. How they did it and who did it raised eyebrows.
Fast Willie Parker suffered a broken right leg on his first carry of the game and Big Najeh Davenport replaced him. For good, it turned out.
Davenport became the Steelers new feature running back in a 41-24 offensive explosion against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome that sounded more like Heinz Field due to thousands of Steelers fans in attendance.
Chalk one up for the offense. Ben Roethlisberger was 10 of 12 for 204 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. We've seen that before. What we hadn't seen too much of this season was Nate Washington making big plays. Washington caught two touchdown passes. Santonio Holmes caught three balls for 116 yards before halftime, including an 83-yard bomb on the Steelers' first play.
That was before Parker suffered a broken fibula when he was spilled by linebacker Will Witherspoon for a 1-yard loss, ending the season much too soon for the NFL's leading rusher.
Say hello to the Steelers' new feature back.
Enter Davenport, who had never rushed for 100 yards in a game in six seasons. Until last night, that is, when the Steelers really needed him.
Davenport ran over, around and through a St. Louis defense that hadn't yielded 100 yards to a running back all season. Davenport topped the 100-yard mark on only his 17th carry, and that was in the third quarter.
The Steelers are going to have to start treating Davenport differently now that he's their feature back. Davenport was shaken up while playing on the punt team in the fourth quarter. Starting running backs don't normally play on punt teams, not when they're replacing the league's top rusher and the depth at that position is now manned by rookies with a Verron Haynes perhaps to be named later.
It was a good thing for the Steelers offense that Davenport returned to carry the football during a later drive that produced a Jeff Reed field goal and essentially put the game out of reach, Ike Taylor's interception return for a touchdown notwithstanding.
Davenport did last night what coach Mike Tomlin always said he could do, given the opportunity and enough carries.
Backing up Parker rarely afforded Davenport the opportunity, or the carries.
Last night he carried the ball 24 times for 123 yards and a touchdown. He also caught two passes for 44 yards and a score.
Davenport was more than an adequate replacement against the Rams. He was a revelation.
Now he's going to have to line up next week against Baltimore and do it all over again.
That's what he's paid to do. Shoot, that's what feature backs do. Especially those who have to lead their team into the playoffs.
Davenport has waited a long time for this type of opportunity. Let's see what he does with it.
|12-21-2007, 08:48 AM||#2|
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Re: Surprise Steelers stars step up when needed
The Steelers are going to have to start treating Davenport differently now that he's their feature back. Davenport was shaken up while playing on the punt team in the fourth quarter. Starting running backs don't normally play on punt teams, not when they're replacing the league's top rusher and the depth at that position is now manned by rookies with a Verron Haynes perhaps to be named later
Having Davenport on ST in the 4th quarter was simply idiotic. I assume that bonehaeded decision rests on the ST coach and not Tomlin, but with the RB situation on the team there is no way Davenport should have been on ST after Parker's injury.
If it was the failure of the ST coach to get Davenport out that is just one more reason ST should be coached up by somene else next year.
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