Parker sets team rushing mark

He almost set the record last month, but this time Willie Parker put it to bed. His 223 yards against the Cleveland Browns propelled the Steelers to a 27-7 win Thursday night.

By now, Willie Parker has that congratulatory telegram Frenchy Fuqua just knew he'd be sending this season.

Parker broke Fuqua's 36-year-old team record with 223 rushing yards in a 27-7 Pittsburgh Steelers win over the Cleveland Browns. Fuqua predicted it would happen after Parker came within five yards of Fuqua's 218-yard standard. But few others could've predicted Parker would set it when he did. One reason was the bone-chilling weather conditions.

"I looked at the weather conditions and didn't think this would be a good night for Willie Parker," said Coach Bill Cowher. "How about that thinking going in?"

Parker had a second strike going against him: The Steelers were in the midst of their worst rushing slump of the Cowher era. In three previous games the Steelers averaged only 2.8 yards per carry. The reason, most critics surmised, was the offensive line. Right tackle Max Starks had a little talk with Parker on the very subject.

"I went to him before the game and said to him that we need to shut everybody up about our running game woes and just go ahead and rip it off," Starks said. "He did a phenomenal job."

Parker didn't waste time. He ripped off 114 yards in the first half and went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season in the process.

Parker opened the second half with five consecutive runs for 36 yards. A couple catches set up Ben Roethlisberger's short touchdown run for a 17-0 lead.

Parker kick-started the Steelers' next series with his game-high 39-yard run up the middle and then an 11-yard run off right tackle. His three-yard touchdown run finished the drive and put the game out of reach at 24-0. However, Parker had more work to do.

"Coach Cowher came to me and asked me if I wanted to run some more," said Parker, who asked his coach what was up.

"He said, ‘Because you're eight yards away from the record.' I told him, yeah, I want to run some more."

Parker gained six yards on his next carry to tie the team record. He gained five more yards before he left the game. He met Cowher on the sideline and the two hugged.

"He just said how proud he was of me, how far I've come," Parker said. "It's like a father-son type of relationship and he just embraced me and kind of got emotional."

His linemen also got kind of emotional after the game. In fact, they were emotional before, during as well as after.

"We found a few plays that were working for us and they didn't have a remedy for it, so we kept going at them," said right guard Kendall Simmons. "We were kind of grinning the whole night because everything was working and we kept going with it."

"They have a lot of pride in playing," offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said of the line. "We talked about running the football after the Baltimore game, that we have to run the football better and a little bit more, and they came out and took it upon themselves and they did a good job.

"You know, we haven't been running the football the way we like to, but we still have a thousand-yard rusher. We're not 29th in the league like we were four years ago, we just haven't been running it the way we like to run it. It was good to get back to that."

"I just want to thank everybody just for believing in me," said Parker. "Everybody who criticized me, I want to thank them, too. They make me move even more."

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