Parker speaks with actions in Steelers' win

PITTSBURGH -- Willie Parker turned 26 on Saturday and on Sunday he gave the city a birthday present. Parker rushed for 213 yards and made the two biggest plays of the game early in the fourth quarter when the desperate Steelers needed them most.

Parker ripped off two runs – 72 and 76 yards – that set up his two short touchdown runs and the Steelers stopped their bleeding with a 38-31 win over the New Orleans Saints.

Parker's 213-yard game was five yards short of the franchise record of 218 set by Frenchy Fuqua in 1970. When Ben Roethlisberger took a knee on the Steelers' final possession, Parker's bid for the record came to an end.

"That's alright. We got the win. That's what's important," said Parker, who smiled when told Fuqua's Steelers lost that 1970 game to the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Thanks for the tip," he said as he headed to meet the rest of the media in the conference room at Heinz Field.

Parker's post-game comments, of course, were a bit different than those he made the previous week after the Steelers lost to the Denver Broncos. After that game, Parker questioned whether the Steelers were as hungry as they had been the previous season.

This week, he did the bulk of his talking on the field.

"A week ago, I criticized some of my teammates by saying we weren't hungry," said Parker. "I never pointed fingers, but I kind of said that my teammates and I weren't as hungry as we were last year. Coach [Bill] Cowher pulled me in his office and told me I can't be doing that because some people might take it the wrong way. I took this past week and regrouped and looked at myself in the mirror. Should I have said it? I don't know if I should have and I don't know if I shouldn't have, but we're a much better team than what we've been playing and tonight we did whatever it took to win the game."

"He said he didn't mean it like it sounded," said running backs coach Dick Hoak. "I just told him be careful what you say."

Parker may have been careful with what he said Sunday, but he was reckless in his actions. Parker had 13 carries for 43 yards late in the third quarter when he took a handoff at the Steelers' 14 on second-and-18. He ran 72 yards before cornerback Mike McKenzie tripped him up at the New Orleans 14. Four plays later Parker ran around right end for a three-yard touchdown that put the Steelers on top, 31-24.

After the Saints punted, Parker took a handoff around right end for 76 yards. He was once again tackled from behind, this time by Jason Craft at the New Orleans 4. After a timeout, Parker scored on the next play to put the game out of reach.

All-Pro guard Alan Faneca was asked after the game what he thought of Fast Willie Parker.

"Fast Willie's fast," Faneca said. "He just gets slow inside the five."


"You have teammates," Parker said at his press conference, "who think they know everything. They gave me a little grief in the shower."

Was Parker surprised he was caught from behind not once but twice?

"I didn't think anybody could catch me," he said. "I learned something new today."

Cowher also learned something new Sunday. He learned he had his first 200-yard rusher. Parker's game was only the third in team history – Fuqua and John Henry Johnson (200 in a 1964 win over Cleveland) were the others – and the first since 1970. Cowher wasn't surprised.

"No, because we'll switch it up with ball carriers," Cowher said. "It's more indicative of the two long runs. That's probably why the numbers were the way they were."

Fuqua also ripped off two long runs in his big game. Hoak was on that team, but wasn't in Philadelphia at the time.

"I was in the hospital," Hoak said. "He ran the same play twice. It was an audible and he ran a trap both times."

And this one?

"On Willie's first one I thought the guy had an angle on him. I thought he was going to get caught on the first one. But the second one, I didn't think they were going to catch him. I was surprised on the second one. I think he was tired."

It's unlikely that "Tired" Willie Parker will work as a nickname. It just doesn't have the same zip.

Steel City Insider Top Stories