Notebook: Parker seeking redemption

The Pittsburgh Steelers will need their running game Sunday against the New England Patriots. So they'll need Willie Parker to bust out of his slump in a big way.

PITTSBURGH – Willie Parker's in a funk, and that stream of fumbles Sunday night certainly didn't help the Steelers' Pro Bowl running back.

Members of the offensive line tried to take the blame for Parker's 3.0-yard average the last five games, but Parker took his share as well.

"It's all of us," Parker said. "We just haven't been getting the job done. We're still [third] in the league in rushing, but there's just so much out there -- so much. When you're trying to be the best, and trying to get to the top of that stat, there's so much to dwell on. We've just got to get it together and I think it's going to be a great week to do that. Everybody's going to be watching the game."

The Steelers, of course, play the undefeated New England Patriots on Sunday. And after the Baltimore Ravens gouged the Patriots for 166 rushing yards on 37 carries (4.5 avg.) Monday night, the Steelers might be expected to do the same. But those who've been watching realize the Steelers have struggled on the ground, in spite of their ranking.

"We're just not all in tune right now as an offense," Parker said.

When asked for specifics, he said, "I guess I'm just reading too much."

As for the fumbles, Parker scoffed at TV announcer John Madden's assertion that his rubber elbow sleeves were the cause.

"I wear those things all the time, especially when it rains or the conditions are tough," he said. "Yeah, they make me look real good, but it's not a fashion statement. They've got grip, and when it gets wet it just grips up a little more. It has nothing to do with the fumbling."

Parker said he's looking forward to Sunday's game because the Patriots play on an artificial surface. But that's not the only reason.

"It's bigger for me because I've just got to redeem myself," he said.


The Steelers will have Najeh Davenport this week to give Parker some help in the backfield.

Davenport was a late scratch Sunday after an acupuncture treatment – not administered by the Steelers' staff – went awry. Davenport was seeking relief from pain brought about by his exercise routine, but his foot swelled and he couldn't play.

The Steelers worked out Verron Haynes on Tuesday, but passed on signing him once Davenport was re-examined.

Davenport and Hines Ward were the only two players to miss Wednesday's practice. Ward was rested and is expected to return Thursday.

Starters Santonio Holmes, Troy Polamalu and Marvel Smith all practiced Wednesday and expect to play Sunday.


In light of Anthony Smith's guarantee of a Steelers win Sunday, defensive end Brett Keisel was asked if he ever guaranteed a win.

"I haven't," he said. "Maybe I should start."

After the Patriots game, right?

"Yeah," he said with a laugh. "Maybe next week."

Jacksonville's pretty good, too.

"Then maybe the week after that," he said.


Patriots Coach Bill Belichick won't be moved to emotion. But one young Pittsburgh reporter had him on the brink during Wednesday's conference call.

The reporter asked Belichick, "What is it about the zone-blitzing scheme that makes your team struggle?"

Belichick paused.

"What is it about the zone-blitzing scheme ..." Belichick said before pausing again.

The pause grew longer before the reporter jumped back in.

"... that makes your team struggle? It seems as if your protections are breaking down whenever, you know, the zone blitz appears."

"Yeah," Belichick said. And then he paused. Longer.

"I tell you," he finally said. "I think Pittsburgh's a real good defensive football team. They do a lot of things well and they're a big challenge to get ready for."

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