Notebook: Don't count out Lorello

The Steelers host the Carolina Panthers tonight in the final preseason game. It's a last chance for rookies, such as Mike Lorello. The strong safety from WVU might be the best player with the longest odds.

PITTSBURGH -- One of the Steelers' top talent evaluators warned two weeks ago that the team could keep six safeties. He mentioned it because undrafted rookie Mike Lorello was playing so well. And then Lorello played better.

"Don't count him out," the source said.

But the numbers puzzle would seem to make Lorello an impossible fit onto the 53-man roster -- not that Lorello has been checking the math.

"Coach [Bill] Cowher has been preaching the whole time not to count numbers because the approach to take, the one I've taken, is I can only control what I do," said Lorello. "I just have to go out there and feel good about the progress that I've made and what I've been able to do and the rest will take care of itself."

Lorello is a 5-foot-11, 208-pound strong safety out of West Virginia University. A native of Powell, Ohio, Lorello was a three-year starter, team captain, and first-team All-Big East at WVU, where his 31.5 tackles-for-loss rank fifth in school history.

Lorello started slowly with the Steelers, getting burned a few times in early practices, but he picked up the defense and began making plays in preseason games. Against Minnesota, Lorello sacked quarterback Tarvaris Jackson for a seven-yard loss early in the third quarter. In the same game, Lorello teamed with lineman Orien Harris to tackle running back Wendell Mathis for a two-yard loss.

In last week's game against Philadelphia, Lorello put a hard hit on running back Ryan Moats for a three-yard loss. The next day he learned he'd passed the Steelers' first cuts.

"The first day I came to minicamp in May, my head was spinning," he said. "But we went through things twice in minicamp and once again in training camp and we've been running the same defense since I've been here, so I feel comfortable. I really know what I'm doing and I know what people around me are supposed to be doing, for the most part."

About his three tackles-for-loss in the last two games, Lorello said: "Those were just plays I should've made."

Has he received support from local fans who know him from his college days?

"Yeah. I saw a lot of people at camp who would just yell my name because they knew I played for West Virginia," Lorello said. "It really goes hand in hand: If you're a West Virginia fan, you're more than likely a Steeler fan too.

"A lot of people are rooting for me back home and I've gotten a lot of compliments and congratulations, but everybody knows it's not over yet, so we'll see."

RICH WILLIE PARKER

Both sides took calculated risks that resulted in the Steelers signing running back Willie Parker to a four-year contract extension that'll pay Parker $13.6 million by the end of the 2009 season. The deal includes a signing bonus of $3.75 million.

Parker, 25, recently signed an exclusive-rights contract for a non-negotiable sum of $425,000. By signing the extension on Wednesday, Parker may have cost himself a chance to make more money in restricted free agency next off-season, or in unrestricted free agency in 2008. However, young running backs sometimes fail to become old running backs in the NFL, so the move guarantees Parker at least one fat signing bonus should his career become sidetracked. But that's the last thought in anyone's mind as Parker comes off his best training camp of his three with the Steelers.

Parker enters the 2006 season as the team's unquestioned starter at halfback after compiling 1,202 yards (4.7 avg.) last season and ripping off a record 75-yard run in the Super Bowl. Parker has received raves this preseason for his improved blocking and receiving, and coaches believe he's also become more patient while waiting for holes to develop.

Nicknamed "Fast Willie Parker" because of his sub 4.3 40 speed, Parker was signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2004 after spending most of his college career on the bench at North Carolina.

HOLMES TRIAL CONTINUED

Santonio Holmes's trial has been continued a second time.

The Steelers' rookie wide receiver is now scheduled to be tried for domestic violence and assault on Dec. 4. The trial stems from a June 18 incident involving girlfriend LaShae Boone.

"Most of our cases don't get resolved [for] four, five, six months," Defense Attorney William Meeks told reporters after a Franklin County, Ohio judge extended the case.

Prosecutors said one of the keys to resolving the case without a jury trial will be a guarantee that Holmes is involved with anger management classes and counseling by Dec. 4.


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