Steelers' Parker achieves goal
By John Harris
Monday, September 8, 2008
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Steelers running back Willie Parker was ecstatic after producing his 22nd career 100-yard rushing game and overjoyed with his first three-touchdown game in the NFL.
What also made Parker happy but even prouder was being on the field and given the chance to score his two short touchdown runs.
"It was real big. I think my teammates know I'm willing to do whatever it takes to be the goal-line back," said Parker, who carried 25 times for 138 yards Sunday in a 38-17 rout of the Houston Texans at Heinz Field in the season opener.
"I just wanted to get back out there and just play. It seemes like it's been a long time coming. It just seems like I've been waiting forever. I know I was only out one or two games last year, but it seemed like the whole season."
Parker proved he was fully recovered from a broken leg he suffered last December. He skirted the right side on second-and four while navigating a 7-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, outracing two defenders to the pylon.
He raced inside, then veered left, to complete a 13-yard scoring burst in the second quarter, hitting the hole hard and fast.
Upon receiving the second-half kickoff, the Steelers called Parker's number seven times during a 10-play scoring drive, with one play called back because of a defensive holding penalty. Parker carried the ball the first three plays for 29 yards. He finished off the drive with a 4-yard scoring run.
"We came into halftime, made a lot of adjustments. Every play in the first half was close to breaking for a long play," Parker said. "We probably never (run) the ball like we did this early into the season. It usually takes time to get comfortable, like mid-season. We really like sticking it in there and scoring and we finished the drive off."
During training camp and the preseason, Parker let it be known he wanted to be the Steelers' No. 1 running back in short-yardage situations.
Last year, Najeh Davenport played the role of the short-yardage back. However, with Davenport no longer on the roster and rookie Rashard Mendenhall being worked gradually into the rotation, coach Mike Tomlin called Parker's number exclusively near the goal line yesterday.
"It's definitley something I always wanted to do," said Parker, who rushed for only two touchdowns in 2007. "Last year, I wanted to do more. Being a goal-line back, that's part of being a running back, finishing off the drive."
John Harris can be reached at [email="email@example.com"]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email] or 412-481-5432.