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fordfixer
09-03-2008, 01:55 PM
Steelers' Parker in pre-injury form
By Scott Brown
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 86101.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_586101.html)

Motivation has never been a problem for the player who broke into the NFL as an undrafted free agent.

Not surprisingly, Willie Parker can find a way to drive himself even by watching a Will Ferrell comedy about auto racing.

"I watch 'Talladega Nights' all the time, and (Ferrell's character) Ricky Bobby says, 'If you ain't first, you're last,' " the Steelers' running back said. "I always consider myself last since I didn't finish first."

Translation: Parker takes no satisfaction from leading the NFL in rushing before breaking his lower right leg last December.

Parker's pursuit of the rushing title that eluded him in 2007 begins Sunday, when the Steelers host the Houston Texans in the regular-season opener for each team.

Leading the NFL in rushing, however, won't be easy for Parker.

While still the No. 1 option in a ground game that ranked third in the NFL in 2007, Parker will almost certainly have a reduced role this season.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference that Mewelde Moore will serve as the team's third-down back. He strongly hinted that rookie Rashard Mendenhall will be the Steelers' short-yardage back if the fumbling problems that plagued the first-round pick during the preseason do not carry over to the regular season.

Mendenhall, assuming he takes care of what Tomlin calls "ball security" issues, should also take some carries from Parker in the base offense.

Parker averaged 329 carries the past two seasons, and the Steelers want to lighten his workload.

The reason for that has little to do with the fact that Parker is less than a year removed from the first serious injury of his football career.

"He appears to be extremely healthy," Tomlin said. "I know he's in great spirits. I know he's looking forward to leading this football team in ways that he always does."

Parker, who signed with the Steelers in 2004 after an undistinguished career at the University of North Carolina, has led the team in rushing for three consecutive seasons.

He may well have added a rushing title to a resume that includes two Pro Bowl selections and the longest run in Super Bowl history, but he got hurt on his first carry in the Steelers' 41-24 win over the Rams last December.

"If I would have finished on top, that would have been something different, that would have been cool," Parker said.

Even cooler for Parker and the Steelers is how quickly he bounced back from the broken fibula.

The injury didn't keep him out of any offseason practices, and any questions about how Parker would hold up after getting hit in live action were answered over the last month. The 5-foot-10, 209-pounder played in all four of the Steelers' preseason games and showed Tomlin enough, even though he logged only 18 carries.

"I needed to make sure that he is still Willie Parker," Tomlin said, "and I think he's shown that not only in preseason games but in training camp and in practices."

"I got what I wanted out of preseason," Parker said.

Now, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, "It counts. It's exciting because we finally get to get going."

And no one appears to be more revved up than Parker.

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-543

RuthlessBurgher
09-03-2008, 03:49 PM
Not surprisingly, Willie Parker can find a way to drive himself even by watching a Will Ferrell comedy about auto racing.

"I watch 'Talladega Nights' all the time, and (Ferrell's character) Ricky Bobby says, 'If you ain't first, you're last,' " the Steelers' running back said. "I always consider myself last since I didn't finish first."

Hopefully, Parker doesn't also drive around his neighborhood blindfolded or with an angry cougar in his car.