By Mike Prisuta
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Willie Parker reported to Heinz Field for the 2006 NFL regular-season opener dressed more for his vacation than his vocation, right down to the shades he sported in the locker room.
But Parker also showed up with a purpose.
"I looked in the closet and was like, 'Well, we play Miami, and I want to end up in Miami,'" he said. "So I put on my clothes like I was going to the beach.
"Everybody was like, 'Willie, we ain't in Miami.' I said, 'We're going to be there.'"
The Steelers took their first step toward Super Bowl XLI in February at Dolphins Stadium by beating the Miami Dolphins, 28-17, last Thursday night.
The win was inspiring for a number of reasons, from the Steelers' fourth-quarter rally to the relatively seamless fashion in which Charlie Batch replaced Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.
Parker contributed 115 yards rushing, but it took him 29 carries, which concerned, as well as pleased, coach Bill Cowher.
"We'll need to make sure we monitor how much we're using this kid," Cowher said, "because he's not a big kid."
The Steelers entered the season with running backs Verron Haynes and Duce Staley, who made a brief appearance against Miami, on the roster. Fifth-year pro Najeh Davenport was added to the mix the day after the season opener.
"We're going to need Duce down the road," Cowher said prior to the acquisition of Davenport.
Parker, 5-foot-10 and 209 pounds, exudes confidence as a third-year pro, but even he isn't sure if he could absorb such a pounding on a regular basis.
"Every game?" Parker said. "I don't know, man."