Willie Parker isn't about to quibble with coach Bill Cowher's criticism of the Steelers' running game during the exhibition season.
"If the head man says the running game isn't going right, it's not going right," Parker said after the Steelers' 16-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles dropped their exhibition record to 0-3. "We have to make some improvements."
Parker, though, has been absolved of any wrongdoing by Cowher, who hasn't seen much continuity from the supporting cast.
"Willie is fine," Cowher said. "I'm very comfortable with where he is."
Parker isn't going to argue that assessment, either. Although he has played sparingly during the exhibition games -- and might make just a token appearance in Thursday's finale -- Parker said he'll be ready to handle the workload when the Steelers open the regular season Sept. 7 against the Miami Dolphins.
Cowher has taken great care to avoid injury to Parker, his biggest backfield asset, during the exhibition season. Duce Staley, looking sluggish on nearly every carry, has done nothing in the preseason to show he'll be a dependable backup. Third-down back Verron Haynes is inexperienced as a full-time starter.
Continuing a preseason trend, Parker lasted just one series with the first-team offense against the Eagles, but he made the most of his time. He handled the ball on six of the first seven plays, carrying three times for 13 yards and catching three passes for 18 yards.
In three games, Parker has carried the ball just seven times for 30 yards, and he has four receptions for 25 yards.
Such inactivity is the reason Parker can't wait for the statistics to count, and his carries to increase exponentially once the Dolphins defense takes the field.
"I'm sick of it," Parker said, referring to his time spent on the sidelines. "I'm ready to play for real. I'm ready to show everybody -- not just me, but our offensive unit and the team as a whole -- that we're a good team."
Parker intimated that he'll be playing this season with a chip on his shoulder, one he will carry because of a perceived lack of respect. He went from undrafted free agent to 1,202-yard rusher to Super Bowl hero with a 75-yard touchdown run. Still, he sees critics -- aside from his coach -- who wonder whether he can duplicate such numbers again.