On one side of the hallway, Mike Tomlin was talking about Willie Parker and how it sounds funny to say he "bounced back" after a 100-yard rushing performance. On the other side, Parker was quoting Bill Cowher and putting the stamp of self-approval on a performance that was more pleasing to his palate.
Parker had his third 100-yard game in a row and his fifth in the past six games, dating to last season, but he is still not ready to announce his return to Pro Bowl form. Not even after rushing for 126 yards on 23 carries and scoring on an 11-yard run in a 26-3 victory against the Buffalo Bills yesterday at Heinz Field.
"It was a tough game last week, feast or famine, as coach Cowher would say," Parker said. "I knew this was a big game for me because I wasn't satisfied at all [last week]."
Parker was unhappy with his performance in Cleveland because he lost a fumble on one play and slipped on another in which the coaches thought he would have had a 40-yard touchdown run. But he helped ease the disappointment yesterday with his 15th career 100-yard rushing game on a day when the Steelers really didn't need anything more than Jeff Reed's four field goals.
Parker put the finishing touch on his performance when he ran for an 11-yard touchdown with 7:13 remaining, running behind Willie Colon's block on rookie linebacker Paul Posluszny and gaining a certain measure of satisfaction. At least for another week.
"I did a better job, but there's still room for improvement," Parker said. "I'm not going to say I'm satisfied."
Parker was stopped for no gain on second down at the Bills' 1 in the third quarter, one play before Ben Roethlisberger threw a 1-yard touchdown to rookie tight end Matt Spaeth.
"I think I could have scored on that goal-line play," Parker said.
OK, so the Steelers need to improve a running game that has averaged 195 yards in two games, at least according to Parker's discerning eye. But there was nothing to pooh-pooh about the way the Steelers slashed and gouged their way through the Bills defense, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and wearing them down in the fourth quarter.
And Parker did it in every manner, beating the Bills to the perimeter with runs of 21 and 24 yards around the end, then hurting them inside in the second half with runs of 16, 11, 9 and 7 yards.
"The more you expect out of yourself, the more you're going to achieve," guard Alan Faneca said of Parker. "You set your standards low, that's what you're going to achieve."
The Steelers finished with 184 yards on 33 carries, with Najeh Davenport piling on 46 more on the final series when the Bills were playing as if they had had enough.
Granted, it's what the Steelers should have done against a defense that ranked 28th against the run in 2006 and gave up 171 yards to the Denver Broncos in the season opener. But, in the wacky world of the NFL, where even the Browns can score 51 points in a game, nothing is to be taken for granted.
"I just knew they were slow on the edges and their ends rush so hard up the field," Parker said. "They pass rush 100 percent, all the time. I knew they would leave a hole in [an inside] gap and that's what I studied all week and that's what it ended up being."
"We felt they were a little light on the outside and if we blocked those defensive ends we'd be fine," guard Kendall Simmons said. "That's what we started doing in the second half."
The Steelers rushed for 100 yards on 18 carries in the second half, most of those coming inside the tackles. Parker, though, had some early success to the outside, and on his runs of 21 and 24 yards, he followed big blocks by fullback Carey Davis.
It is what he has been doing for three seasons as a starter, since he had his first 100-yard game in the 2004 season finale in Buffalo. He became the 11th player in club history to surpass 3,000 career rushing yards and moved into 10th place on their all-time list with 3,117 yards.
"We challenged him a little bit this week and he challenged himself to bounce back," Tomlin said. "I know it sounds a little funny to say he bounced back because he ran for 100 yards, but he wasn't pleased with that performance."