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Old 09-15-2009, 12:04 AM   #1
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Default Steelers looking to amp up running game

Steelers looking to amp up running game

By Scott Brown
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

If the Steelers can find anything positive to take from a running game that came up a little south of dismal in the season opener last Thursday, it's this: The principal players in it are not pointing fingers at one another.

Running back Willie Parker made that clear when he dropped in on a meeting of the offensive linemen Monday and told the players that everyone has to do a better job in the ground game starting with the Steelers' primary ball-carrier.

"I (darn) sure wasn't happy with the way things went, and I've got a lot of pride in myself," Parker said before practice yesterday. "We've got to get it fixed early so that problem won't keep coming up."

Parker managed just 19 yards on 13 carries against Tennessee in the four previous openers he started, the two-time Pro Bowler averaged 130.8 rushing yards and the Steelers had to rely on the right arm of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to rally past the Titans, 13-10, in overtime.

What encouraged at least some of the Steelers after reviewing film of the game is that a lot of their missteps were a product of just not playing their sharpest in the opening game.

Wide receiver Hines Ward cited a play early in the game when Parker got thrown for a 3-yard loss by Titans linebacker Stephen Tulloch.

"The second play of the game, the center (Justin Hartwig) steps on the guard's foot, and the guard (Chris Kemoeatu) falls down," Ward said. "The guy the guard's supposed to block makes the play.

"We're not hitting the panic button. You're not going out at the top Week 1. Watching all the (NFL) games, nobody played their best game Week 1."

The Steelers could have an easier time running the ball Sunday, when they visit Chicago for a 4:15 p.m. game.

The Bears lost Pro Bowl middle linebacker Brian Urlacher for the season because of a dislocated wrist he sustained last Sunday night, and he has long been the linchpin of their defense.

"He's out for the season? That's crazy," Parker said, when told about Urlacher. "He's definitely a game-changer. You definitely can't go around that any way, shape or form. I feel bad for him."

Another reason to think that the Steelers, who managed just 36 rushing yards against the Titans, will get the ground game going is Parker.

The sixth-year veteran missed significant practice and playing time in training camp and the preseason because of a myriad minor injuries. He admittedly was feeling his way a bit against a Titans defense that's generally stout against the run.

"When I get a good amount of reps in the preseason, I have a lot of confidence going into the first game," Parker said. "I can't say I wasn't really as confident, but I wasn't used to getting hit, so I was kind of behind going into the first game. I wasn't hitting the holes."

Not that the offensive line provided many openings for Parker, Rashard Mendenhall and Mewelde Moore. But starting tackle right tackle Willie Colon attributed the struggles the line had in the running game to mistakes that can be fixed.

"It was a lot of stupid stuff, honestly, just miscommunication on our part," Colon said of what he saw when the Steelers reviewed the tape from the season opener. "That's all stuff that is easily corrected and nothing you scratch your head about and say, 'Wow, we may be in trouble.'

"But we've got to have a sense of urgency about getting that going because that has to be a big part of our game if we want to win."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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Old 09-15-2009, 04:30 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers looking to amp up running game

I hope that Parker Mendenhall and company can get it fixed. We have got to have the running game back like the good old days when we could run it and eat up the clock but it looks like we have a long ways to go.
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