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Old 09-07-2009, 08:00 AM   #1
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Default On the Steelers: Will this be Parker's final opening-game start?

On the Steelers: Will this be Parker's final opening-game start?
Monday, September 07, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09250/996177-66.stm

Willie Parker opens another season as the starting tailback for the Steelers Thursday night. That makes it five consecutive openers for him there and judging by the way they've ignored him in non-contract talks, likely his last opening-day start for them.

Parker's first NFL start also came on opening day and it also came at home against Tennessee, Sept. 11, 2005, in Heinz Field. He made a grand debut with 161 yards rushing on 22 carries; he also ran 48 yards with a screen pass.

The Steelers won, 34-7, and would go on to win Super Bowl XL that season, in part, because Parker ripped off a record 75-yard touchdown run against Seattle.

Four years, 4,989 yards and two Pro Bowls/Super Bowls later, Parker has again beat back the competition from first-round draft choice Rashard Mendenhall. He needs just 11 yards Thursday night to hit 5,000 for his career. Only two backs in Steelers history had more, Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis.

Parker turns 29 Nov. 11 and with the injuries that caused him to miss five games last season, there is natural worry about whether his body is showing the effects of the 1,123 runs from scrimmage he made the past four seasons. He played just one game this preseason because of back and hamstring problems and carried just four times.

At 5 feet 10, 209 pounds, he is no Jerome Bettis.

"I'm not worried about that," Parker said, laughing at any speculation that his body is wilting. "I didn't even get hit. I was doing stuff on my day off. I just have to get my body back right."

It is good enough right now that coach Mike Tomlin declared emphatically on Friday that "Willie Parker's our runner."

Yesterday, he went through practice and afterward declared himself fit and ready to go.

Parker began last season on fire with games of 138 and 105 yards, then came his knee injury against Philadelphia in the third game. He missed four games, returned to play and then left in that game at Washington with a shoulder injury. He missed one more game, then returned and ripped off 115 yards in an important 11-10 win against San Diego.

He had another 146 yards against the Chargers in the first playoff game.

So do not count Willie Parker out from returning to form this season. Despite missing five full games and parts of two others, he still had 791 yards rushing.

And after the Steelers finished 23rd in the NFL in rushing, he sees a recommitment to the ground game.


"I think we want to get the run game better than 23rd in league," Parker said. "That's not Steeler football. I think we really want to run the ball this year."

The Steelers kept only four running backs, down one from last season, including rookie Frank Summers. As for the contract extension snub, Parker expressed little concern.

"I'm a Steeler, the Steelers are all I know. I love these guys here. I really can't talk about the future, I can only worry about the present. Tomorrow will take care of itself."
Redman back in the fold

Steelers coaches told Isaac Redman he was the odd-man out because they had to create a roster spot for return man Stefan Logan.

Normally, they would have kept four running backs and a fullback on their 53-man roster instead of the three running backs this time. Redman cleared waivers yesterday and signed to the Steelers' practice squad.

"I was a little surprised," Redman said of getting cut. "I thought I might have done enough to make the 53-man roster. I was just waiting around to see if somebody was going to pick me up.

"They basically told me I did everything I could have done and more. They just want to develop me and mold me. They said it was unfortunate, they had to make the extra slot for Stefan Logan, the punt returner, and they couldn't carry that fourth running back."

Logan led the Steelers with 145 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the preseason. He also scored on seven of nine carries in two separate live goal-line drills in training camp. That production prompted the nickname, Red Zone Redman.

"I thought I did a pretty good job," Redman said.

"I just have to keep working hard and hopefully one day I'll make a roster."

If he does, he would be only the third player from Bowie State in Maryland to play in the NFL, more than 20 years after the previous one.

Seven join practice squad

Besides Redman, the Steelers signed six others to their practice squad and lost another they wanted to sign, rookie defensive end Sonny Harris, their sixth-round draft choice.

Harris was in the locker room ready to sign when he learned the Carolina Panthers claimed him off waivers. He said goodbye to some former teammates and left.

The others on the practice squad, all of whom the team waived Saturday, are linebacker Donovan Woods, center A.Q. Shipley, defensive tackle Steve McLendon, running back Justin Vincent, tight end Dezmond Sherrod and wide receiver Tyler Grisham.

The Steelers held open one available spot on the eight-man practice squad limit, possibly to sign a defensive back.

They made no other moves yesterday and wound up with no players claimed off waivers.

For more on the Steelers, read the new blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com.
First published on September 7, 2009 at 12:00 am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09250...#ixzz0QQAw2OCw
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Old 09-07-2009, 08:04 AM   #2
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Will this be Parker's final opening-game start?

Quote:
Logan led the Steelers with 145 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the preseason. He also scored on seven of nine carries in two separate live goal-line drills in training camp. That production prompted the nickname, Red Zone Redman.
I think he meant Redman and not Logan
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Old 09-07-2009, 08:07 AM   #3
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Will this be Parker's final opening-game start?

Quote:
"I'm a Steeler, the Steelers are all I know. I love these guys here. I really can't talk about the future, I can only worry about the present. Tomorrow will take care of itself."
That's it in a nutshell.

Like FWP, I'm concentrating on his performance this season rather than looking down the road and consulting my Ouija board.
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Old 09-07-2009, 08:16 AM   #4
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Will this be Parker's final opening-game start?

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Originally Posted by HometownGal View Post
That's it in a nutshell.

Like FWP, I'm concentrating on his performance this season rather than looking down the road and consulting my Ouija board.
Your absolutely right. Parker is a Steeler today, and that is what really counts.
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Old 09-07-2009, 09:40 AM   #5
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Will this be Parker's final opening-game start?

I think Parker will stay either by hometown discount or by whatever means the guy has great work ethic and great character. Most of all he is a Steeler and the FO will take care of him when the time comes.The same goes for the rest of our free agents. I think we will approach next year much like this one keeping our own guys first.
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Old 09-07-2009, 10:03 AM   #6
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Will this be Parker's final opening-game start?

Hopefully Parker will just stay healthy this season and perform well. Thats all that truly matter, he still has many good years ahead of him, so let him prove it!
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Old 09-07-2009, 10:20 AM   #7
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Will this be Parker's final opening-game start?

The only way he will stay is to take a discount. And if Mendenhall thrives, probably not at all. Mendenhall thriving is 50/50 at best.
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Old 09-07-2009, 02:07 PM   #8
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Will this be Parker's final opening-game start?

so many indications pointing towards willie not being here next here, which more than likely he wont be. BUT WHO CARES! thats the nfl for ya and will always be like that. lets ride with him NOW, fast willie style, since he is a steeler!
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Old 09-07-2009, 02:10 PM   #9
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Will this be Parker's final opening-game start?

I'd love to see him retire as a Steeler, but as others have said, he'd need to work for cheap.
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Old 09-07-2009, 03:55 PM   #10
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Default Re: On the Steelers: Will this be Parker's final opening-game start?

I think fwp still has alot of football left in him. If our line can stay healthy and, provide some running lanes provided that fwp is healthy as well he will have a great season. Mendy might be the future but, only time will tell. As we all know it starts with our oline. I have not seen good things from Mendy yet to say any different. Mainly Mendy needs to hold on to the ball and, not put it on the ground. FWP si our top back end of story.
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