By Scott Brown
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Ask Willie Parker to assess his performance in the Steelers' season opener last Sunday and he makes it sound like he rushed for 29 yards, not the 109 he grinded out against the Browns.
"I was making some bad reads," Parker said. "There were some holes I didn't hit."
The Pro Bowler still notched his 13th career 100-yard rushing game, and his final total would have been closer to 150 yards, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said, had Parker not slipped and fallen on a play in the fourth quarter of the Steelers' 34-7 win.
But take away two lengthy runs and Parker had 62 yards on 25 carries, and he hinted that open running lanes aren't the only thing he missed in Cleveland.
The Steelers had a fullback in the game for only five plays in the first half, and Dan Kreider, Parker's lead blocker the previous two seasons, was only on the field for one of those.
"I need some company back there," Parker said.
Parker, however, should be used to running without a fullback escort. Arians said 60 percent of the Steelers' running plays last season came in one-back sets, while 40 percent were run when two backs were in the game.
That percentage was essentially flip-flopped last week, as Arians said the Steelers ran out of a two-back set around 65 percent of the time because they had a big lead and wanted to run out the clock in the second half.
"We're very little in running-play difference from what we've run in the past," Arians said.
The one noticeable change in the running game is the smaller but more athletic Carey Davis starting over Kreider at fullback.
Both dressed for the Cleveland game, and it appears as if the two will share the position -- Arians said he expects both to be active for Sunday's game against Buffalo -- with Kreider playing in short-yardage and goal-line situations as well as when the Steelers are trying to chew up time. "If that's the role they want to have for me," Kreider said, "I'll embrace it and try to excel at it."
Bills to pay?Willie Parker could have a big game Sunday against the Bills at Heinz Field.In three of its last six regular-season games, Buffalo has given up
more than 100 yards to an opposing back. DatePlayerCarriesYardsResult09-09-07Travis Henry23139Broncos, 15-1412-24-06Travis Henry25135Titans, 30-2912-03-06LaDainian Tomlinson28178Chargers, 24-21
Some of the running backs that excelled last season in the NFL got off to slow starts in Week 1. LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson and Steven Jackson combined for just 126 rushing yards.
Along with being a Pro Bowler in 2006, Parker has something else in common with those three backs: He saw very little action during preseason games.
"A lot of people say that that I could be rusty," Parker said, "but I don't make excuses for myself."
Nor should he, said Arians, who noted that Parker still rushed for more than 100 yards against defense that is better than people think.
Not that Arians or the Steelers mind Parker feeling that he can and should play a lot better when the Steelers host the Bills on Sunday.
"He shouldn't be satisfied," Arians said. "As a group we left a lot of offense on that field and a lot of points on that field. I was not very happy with our performance last week."