STEELERS 2006 PREVIEW - RUNNINGBACK
By: PITT23 of SteelerAddicts.com
Last year at this time, I remember hearing on ESPN that our running back situation was in total disarray with three guys but none of them good enough to carry the team. I’m sure most fans felt the same way as well.
Wow, how things have changed. In week one against Tennessee, fairly unknown Willie Parker ran for 161 yards and a touchdown and people started to have that good feeling. On a 45 yard run we saw the speed that gives him his name. Week two? He came back just as strong with 11 and another TD.
It’s expected that “Fast Willie” is going to be just as good, if not better, than he was last year. He is running behind a great offensive line and his speed is something that he uses well. Some people don’t realize he can pound it in up the middle quite well too. The question mark lies within the five yard line, a spot generally filled by Jerome Bettis’ 255 pound frame. He went out on top and therefore can no longer shoulder the responsibility of blasting through the goal line defenses. Willie has been quoted as saying he wants to try those short yardage runs, both near the goal line and on shorter third down plays.
One guy who is working in training camp on short yardage plays is Duce Staley, but staying healthy has never been his forte. I figure that with fewer carries and less of that day to day wear he should have a higher chance to stay healthy. Whether the bigger Staley or eager Parker gets the carries in those situations, it’ll be hard to fill the shoes of The Bus.
Other guys include Verron Haynes and Cedric Humes, both of whom are talented players. Haynes will occasionally play fullback which offers a great double threat of backs who can run it and he’s said he wouldn’t mind more carries. Humes was drafted later in this year’s draft and had a nice carry in the opening preseason game. He’ll continue to work with Omar Jacobs and Shane Boyd on the second and third team offenses.
Don’t forget about Hines Ward who sees a reverse play more often than most other teams will ever run. He has a great determination to pick up great yardage with the ball in his hands and giving him the ball is a trick play (of sorts) that we can run without the assistance of Antwaan Randle El.
Returning as our fullback is Dan Kreider, one of the best fullbacks in the game. He doesn’t receive as much attention as Parker but his blocks are always critical to our running game. His leading the way through the line can make the job easier for Parker, Staley, and any other play who runs the ball.
This is part two in a several part series featuring an outlook on each of the Steelers' positional groups. A new one will be posted every few days leading up to the season opener. Feel free to repost this anywhere with the proper credit and website address. Comments are welcome and appreciated.