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Old 01-13-2009, 09:52 PM   #1
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Default Steelers' Parker draws inspiration from Bettis

Steelers' Parker draws inspiration from Bettis
http://myespn.go.com/blogs/afcnorth/...om-Bettis.html
January 12, 2009 12:05 AM
http://myespn.go.com/blogs/afcnorth/...om-Bettis.html
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers tailback Willie Parker always had a soft spot for Jerome Bettis.

As former teammates, the future Hall of Famer took undrafted free agent Parker under his wing. In turn, Parker credited Bettis numerous times for his success at the professional level.

When Bettis returned to Heinz Field on Sunday as an honorary guest for Pittsburgh's AFC divisional playoff game against the San Diego Chargers, Parker didn't disappoint. He ran for a season-high 146 yards and two touchdowns to lead Pittsburgh to a 35-24 victory over the Chargers.

The Steelers will play host to division rival Baltimore in the AFC Championship Game here next Sunday.

Before this game against the Chargers, Parker had a good talk with Bettis and then produced one of the biggest performances of his career. It was evident from the first several carries that Parker was determined to be the catalyst of Pittsburgh's offense.

"He heard and he read all week long how I was healthy and he just wanted me to show him," Parker said of Bettis. "I just looked him in his eyes and put my hand over my heart, and that symbolizes that I feel you. I didn't have to say anything really. He understood what I meant."

Second season

Parker went out and demonstrated his health to Bettis and 63,899 Steelers fans through his actions. Coming off a bye week, Parker looked as fresh as he has all season, averaging 5.4 yards per carry against the Chargers. He battled shoulder and knee injuries throughout the season.

Frustration began to mount for Parker. He wasn't hitting the rushing lanes hard enough. The burst he demonstrated during his two Pro Bowl seasons was seemingly lost with injuries. And by the end of the season, he had just 791 yards and five touchdowns, which were his lowest totals in four years.

At times, teammates say, Parker's confidence began to waver.

"I tell him this all of the time; 'Just trust yourself and believe in yourself,'" Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "He's too good of a running back to question himself."

Parker and the Steelers are proving that it's never too late to find an identity in the NFL.

After struggling on the ground all season, Pittsburgh made a concerted effort to run the ball and did so effectively against San Diego. The Steelers demoralized the Chargers' defense as the game wore on and held a run-pass ratio of 42-to-26.

It's clear that Parker's success is tied in closely with the success of the Steelers. Including Sunday, the team is 5-0 when Parker gets over 100 yards this season.

Pittsburgh hopes it's sign of things to come.


"That kid has been through a lot," Steelers tackle Willie Colon said. "He's gone from the leading rusher last year to going through the wave of emotions this year. I think

Parker vs. the Ravens
Baltimore has contained Willie Parker to just 2.8 yards per carry in six career games. Pittsburgh is 3-3 in those games. He'll get a chance to improve on that mark Sunday in the AFC Championship game.

Year Carries Yards Result
2008 14 47 Pitt., 13-9
2007 23 42 Pitt., 38-7
2006 10 22 Balt., 27-0
2006 13 29 Balt., 31-7
2005 14 63 Pitt., 20-19
2005 18 59 Balt., 16-13
Totals
92 262 Tied, 3-3

Enter the Ravens


Parker undoubtedly will be the focal point in next week's AFC Championship Game against the Ravens, which is expected to be a low scoring affair.

No team has had Parker's number throughout his career quite like Baltimore. He averages just 43.7 yards in six career games with no rushing touchdowns. Parker has never reached 100 yards and averages just 2.85 yards per carry against the rival Ravens.

"They're stingy," Parker said of Baltimore. "The thing about the Ravens is they're going to fight just like we're going to fight. It's going to be a tough, brutal matchup."

Pittsburgh won both games by a combined total of seven points.

Ravens-Steelers games are always brutal, but expect the intensity to be raised even higher with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. A major deciding factor will be Parker's success -- or lack thereof -- running the football.

"The running game is going to be important -- they know that and we know that," Colon said. "The thing about our offensive line and our offense in general is the ability to run it when [opponents] know you're going to run it. So we know what time it is and they know what time it is. Let's roll the ball out and see who's the bigger man."

As Parker knows, it will be the type of football game that Bettis loves.
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Old 01-13-2009, 10:13 PM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers' Parker draws inspiration from Bettis

FWP is running like a crazy man 22 carries 105 yards 1 TD.
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Old 01-14-2009, 03:37 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers' Parker draws inspiration from Bettis

That was a great performance on Sunday. It felt good to see our guy play so well finally, after all he has been through.

I know the Raven defense is most excellent, but I can see Willie popping for another 80-100 this Sunday as well. That will free up Ben to make all those plays he did last week.

-Mike
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Old 01-14-2009, 04:57 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers' Parker draws inspiration from Bettis

80-90 yards from Willie will help the passing game and FWP is one spirited dude right now.
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Old 01-14-2009, 07:13 AM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers' Parker draws inspiration from Bettis

Great to see the burst and confidence back with FWP. If FWP can get 50-60 yards rushing on Sunday that can only help our offense.
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Old 01-14-2009, 07:15 AM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers' Parker draws inspiration from Bettis

Quote:
"He heard and he read all week long how I was healthy and he just wanted me to show him," Parker said of Bettis. "I just looked him in his eyes and put my hand over my heart, and that symbolizes that I feel you. I didn't have to say anything really. He understood what I meant."
A little too much touchy feely stuff IMO...
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