As the Running Game Goes, So go the Steelers

The Bears gave 4.2 yards per carry to a sub par Green Bay ground game, which is something Pittsburgh will try to attack as they've struggled to run the ball during a three-game losing streak.

Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher announced he will stick with Willie Parker as his starting halfback as the Steelers try to get their ground game back in gear.

Pittsburgh, the NFL's No. 2 running team last season, has not rushed for 100 yards in the past three games, all losses. The Steelers are 0-5 this season when they do not run for 100 yards. They are 22-0 the past two seasons when they run for 100 yards.

Parker led the NFL in rushing with 272 yards after two games but he has only had one 100-yard game since. He leads the Steelers with 788 yards rushing and has a 4.5-yard average per carry but he's not the kind of back that can pound defenses into submission, the way Jerome Bettis has in the past.

There have been calls for Cowher to return to Duce Staley as his starter. Staley was signed as a free agent last year and had 707 yards rushing in the first seven games before he injured a hamstring. He hasn't done much since. He has 148 yards this season on 38 attempts. They used him on third downs the past two weeks but he has carried only six times for eight yards in the past two games and was inactive in the previous one.

Bettis too has done little. He has 16 carries for 22 yards in the past three games and has 186 on 67 carries this season.

Cowher yanked Parker from the game early in the fourth quarter after he fumbled for the second time in two series.

"He knows, if he puts the ball on the ground, he and I will be talking like we're talking here, he'll be standing next to me," Cowher said.

The Steelers would love to run against the Bears on Sunday. But can they?

"I thought we ran the ball a little bit more efficiently than we have in the past," Cowher said of their effort against the Bengals last Sunday, when they ran 28 times for 95 yards. "I still think we can run the ball better."

If so, they'll have to do it again without Pro Bowl left tackle Marvel Smith, who will miss his third game in four weeks with a sprained ankle. Rookie Trai Essex again will replace him.

"We want to be able to run the football," Cowher said. "I'd like to think we can do that. We're not where we need to be right now, that's the unfortunate part of it, but that's the reality of where we are and we have to keep working to get there."

The Steelers rank 10th in the NFL in yards per game but only 19th in yards per rushing attempt (3.9). The Bears have the 7th ranked rush defense and are tied for 2nd in yards per attempt.

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