Fast Willie's riding high

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> As I strolled through the locker room following the Steelers' 27-3 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, I ran right into running back Willie Parker. <BR><BR> He was grinning from ear to ear and was ready to talk to somebody, anybody.

I had interviewed him a few times during mini-camp and training camp, so as a familiar face, I guess I fit the bill.

"Man, I was just glad to finally get a chance to get out there and run the ball," said Parker, who had just gotten finished making the first three carries of his career for 14 yards.

"I was starting to think I'd never get a chance."

Parker had opened some eyes in the preseason with his blazing speed, something the other backs the Steelers have lack. He led the team in rushing during the preseason, earning a roster spot over last year's training camp wonder, Dante Brown.

Now, Parker could see his role expanded this week against Cleveland. Head coach Bill Cowher said Tuesday third-down back Verron Haynes is doubtful to play against the Browns because of turf toe, while Duce Staley is questionable with a hamstring injury. Even Jerome Bettis, who rushed for 149 yards Sunday in place of Staley, is probable with a calf injury.

That leaves Fast Willie as the guy who could be carrying the load.

"Whatever they want me to do, I'm willing to do it," said Parker. "I just want to help this team keep on winning."
  • Here's some food for thought for the re-sign Plaxico Burress people.

    For the Steelers to re-sign Burress, they are going to need to trim their roster of several players they aren't going to be ready to let go.

    Sure, everybody can talk about the team getting rid of Chad Scott and Jerome Bettis. But are you now willing to cut ties with Jeff Hartings and Kimo von Oelhoffen?

    It's not just a matter of signing Burress. Several players see their salaries jump considerably next season that must be accounted for, including Duce Staley.

    And if they give Burress a big contract, they almost certainly have to pay Hines Ward more, given that he's been more valuable.

    The Steelers can have one big-money wide receiver, but they most certainly can't afford to have two eating up more than $10 million in cap space.

  • A nice second-round draft choice will fit right in as a deep threat, ala. Darius Watts in Denver. Or, the Steelers could go for a mid-level free agent to take Burress' place. We are, after all, talking about a guy averaging three catches per game.

  • At this point, it's looking more like the Steelers should make a pitch to keep free agent-to-be Oliver Ross around next season.

    Keydrick Vincent will be a free agent and is likely to get himself a nice deal to start somewhere else. And Ross is playing well enough that he could be brought back as insurance in case Max Starks doesn't work out. This is a team, after all, with a pretty poor track record for developing tackles.

    Plus, if Starks does beat out Ross, he's still capable as serving as the team's utility offensive lineman.

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