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fordfixer
01-14-2009, 08:52 PM
Steelers' Parker Shifts Into Gear
By Tony Moss, NFL Editor

http://www.sportsnetwork.com/merge/tsnf ... id=4203325 (http://www.sportsnetwork.com/merge/tsnform.aspx?c=sportsnetwork&page=nfl/news/news.aspx?id=4203325)

(Sports Network) - The ability to play winning football in January, the prevailing NFL wisdom goes, revolves around two things: playing great defense and running the football.

The first was never going to be a problem for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who led the NFL in nearly every meaningful statistical category on that side of the ball during the regular season.

In Sunday's 35-24 win over the Chargers in an AFC Divisional Playoff from Heinz Field, the second part of the equation locked into place.

And now, there may be no stopping the Steelers, the highest remaining seed in the 2008 postseason.

Willie Parker shook off what had largely been a frustrating, injury-laden season in the victory, carrying 27 times for a season-high 146 yards with two touchdowns to keep the pressure off of Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh passing game. The aerial attack had been under fire for much of the year, both due to the struggles of the Steelers as a pass-blocking group, and because of the team's sub-standard work on the ground.

A Black and Gold team that had long made its offensive bones running the football ranked a distant 23rd in NFL rushing offense (105.6 yards per game) during the regular season, and 29th in yards per carry (3.7). The Steelers were third (135.5 yards per game) and seventh (4.2) in the same respective categories last year, and the sharp decline had much to do with ankle and knee injuries that held Parker out of five contests during the first half of the year.

Upon his return, the three-time 1,000-yard rusher rarely looked like the same back that had earned two previous Pro Bowl citations, but began to snap out of his funk by topping triple-digits against Cleveland in Week 17.

The re-emergence hinted at in that contest was announced loud and clear on Sunday.

"I'm not struggling anymore," said Parker after the win, which saw the North Carolina product post his highest rushing total since going for 223 yards against the Browns on Dec. 7, 2006. "It's real hard for a running back to make plays when he's struggling, and you're out there trying to make plays instead of going out and playing confident."

Parker scored the Steelers' first offensive touchdown of the day with under a minute remaining in the first half, going in from three yards out to stake Pittsburgh to a 14-10 halftime lead.

But his big blow came in the fourth quarter, when he put the last nail in the Chargers' coffin by taking the ball around right end and scoring on a 16-yard play that gave Pittsburgh an insurmountable 35-17 lead with just over four minutes remaining.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who notched his first postseason win in two years with the team, acknowledged the rise of Parker, and by extension the entire offense.

"At this time of year, you are either a team on the rise, or you are not," remarked Tomlin. "The same probably goes for individuals. [Parker] has had a tough go of it at times from a health standpoint during the season, but he weathered it early and he appears to be rising at the appropriate time. It is great for him and even better for us."

Roethlisbeger, who completed 17-of-26 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown without a turnover, while absorbing one sack, was also appreciative of his backfield mate's day.

"I tell him this all of the time...just trust yourself and believe in yourself. He's too good of a running back to question himself. 'Should I bounce it to the outside or go up the hole?' I said 'You know what Willie, you trust yourself and do what you do best,' and he did that tonight."

Clearly, Parker's biggest challenges lay ahead.

On the docket in this Sunday's AFC Championship is a very aggressive Baltimore Ravens defense, one that held Parker to 47 yards on 14 carries when the teams played back in Week 15.

In five career outings against the Ravens, Parker has never amassed more than 63 yards and has averaged better than four yards per carry only once.

"They're stingy," Parker said of the Baltimore defense. "The thing about the Ravens is that they are going to fight like we are going to fight. It's going to be a tough, brutal matchup. We just have to go out and make plays like we did [against the Chargers] and try to keep our defense off the field."

Despite the difficult matchup, Parker does not sound like a man whose confidence is as at a low ebb.

Said the running back of himself, "I can say, from a running back struggling in the earlier part of the year, he's found his niche and he's feeling 100 percent and now he's out there making plays."


PLAYOFF TIDBITS

-The Steelers own one of two playoff wins by a home team in the 2008 playoffs, as road units have gone a collective 6-2 thus far. Pittsburgh is the only team that earned a first-round bye and won its Divisional Round game, and is the highest remaining seed in a playoff field that also includes the fourth-seeded Cardinals and sixth-seeded Ravens and Eagles.

-In addition to the victory over the Chargers being the Steelers' first playoff win of the Tomlin era, it was also the club's first postseason victory since beating the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, and its first home playoff win since taking down the Jets in the 2004 Divisional Round. Pittsburgh last won two playoff home games in the same season in 1995, when they beat the Bills and Colts at home before losing to the Cowboys in the Super Bowl. The Steelers are 0-3 since 1995 when earning a second home postseason game, losing in the 2004 and 2001 AFC Championships to New England, and in the 1997 AFC Championship to Denver.

-The win over San Diego erased Pittsburgh's dubious playoff history against the Chargers. The Bolts had come into the Steel City as an underdog on two occasions, in a 1982 AFC First-Round Playoff and the 1994 AFC Championship, and emerged with victories at Three Rivers Stadium. Since the '94 game, San Diego is now 0-5 in Pittsburgh.

-The Steelers' 35 points on Sunday were their third-most of the season, just behind the 38 they scored in wins over the Texans (38-17 in Week 1) and Bengals (38-10 in Week 7). The point total was the team's highest in a playoff game since a 36-33 win over the Browns in a 2002 AFC Wild Card game.


NEXT UP: THREE-MATCH

Pittsburgh won its only postseason meeting with Baltimore all-time, a 27-10 triumph in a 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff at Heinz Field. The Ravens' loss, which came on the heels of a Super Bowl victory in 2000, was the first in Baltimore's franchise history and was also the first postseason game played at Heinz Field.

The Steelers hold a 16-10 edge in the all-time regular season series with the Ravens, including a sweep of this year's home-and-home. Pittsburgh scored a 23-20 home win in overtime when the teams met in a Monday Night contest in Week 4, then wrapped up the AFC North title with a 13-9 win at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 15. The clubs embarked on a conventional home-and-home split of last year's series, including the Ravens closing out their otherwise disappointing 5-11 season with a 27-21 home victory over the Steelers in Week 17. The Ravens last won in Pittsburgh in 2006, but are 1-7 in their last eight trips there, beginning with the 2001 playoff loss.

A team that has lost two games in a regular season series with an opponent, has gone on face that opponent a third time on 18 occasions in NFL history. The club that is 0-2 heading into that contest is 7-11 in postseason contests, including a win for the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants over the Cowboys in a 2007 NFC Divisional Playoff.

Tomlin is 3-1 against the Ravens in his career, while Baltimore's John Harbaugh is 0-2 against both Tomlin and Pittsburgh as a head coach.



01/13 11:34:20 ET

Jooser
01-14-2009, 09:03 PM
http://img220.imageshack.us/img220/37/207nh4lt6.jpg (http://imageshack.us)

http://img132.imageshack.us/img132/7669/aagu224no26tddivesuperbch1.jpg (http://imageshack.us)

Fly Willie, FLY!! Yes Sir!!!!!

Jooser
01-14-2009, 09:05 PM
Dude gave his dad his Super Bowl ring - in the trunk of the new Cadillac he bought him. Ya gotta love him!!!

fordfixer
01-14-2009, 09:16 PM
Yes sir! :tt1

schillah
01-15-2009, 02:16 AM
http://img220.imageshack.us/img220/37/207nh4lt6.jpg (http://imageshack.us)



Fly Willie, FLY!! Yes Sir!!!!!

great pic

flippy
01-15-2009, 07:38 AM
Parker's not gonna run the ball on the Ravens.

But him having a good game is gonna against SD is gonna set up Ben for success. Cause Baltimore has got to think about Parker and make stopping him a priority. That alone is gonna open up the passing game for Ben.