Notebook: Parker expected to play

PITTSBURGH – The New England Patriots rank among the league's bottom feeders in the key pass-defense statistics, and their run defense isn't so hot, either.

The Patriots allow 4.0 yards per carry to rank 15th in that category. They're 14th in overall run defense, and perhaps that's why the Steelers believe getting Willie Parker on the field is so important.

Parker's listed as questionable with a knee injury, but practiced late in the week and the team expects him to play. He'll run up against two defensive ends – Richard Seymour and Ty Warren – who are also questionable with leg injuries, but who also expect to play.

Parker has been in and out of the Steelers' lineup with knee and shoulder injuries the last four weeks. He still carried 60 times for 222 yards (3.7 avg.) during that stretch, as the Steelers averaged 3.0 per carry, just up from their season average of 2.9 per carry.

It's a paltry output for the once-proud Steelers rushing attack. Parker has advocated a return to "Steelers football," but in the last four games the Steelers have a run-pass ratio of 44-56. Proponents of the pass-first approach point to the alleged pass-first mentality of the 2005 playoffs, but in those four playoff games the Steelers' run-pass ratio was 58-42. They, of course, won all four games, and in the last four games this season are 3-1.

To pinpoint the Steelers' troubles running the ball, here's the rushing breakdown for the various personnel groupings the last four weeks:

• Three wide receivers – 35 for 131, 3.7 ypc.

• Two tight ends – 29 for 60, 2.1 ypc.

• Two TEs with fullback – 25 for 98, 3.9 ypc.

• One TE with fullback – 13 for 50, 3.8 ypc.

• Three tight ends – 1 for 1, 1.0 ypc.

Sets with three tight ends and a fullback that were used to gain one yard were not considered.

Without a fullback overall, the Steelers carried 65 times for 192 yards (3.0), and with a fullback they carried 38 times for 148 yards (3.9). So they've run 71 percent more often without a fullback and have gained only 30 percent more yardage. So even if Parker plays, expect the Steelers to use their passing game to set up his carries.

MCFADDEN HOPEFUL

Cornerback Bryant McFadden replaced injured Deshea Townsend in the lineup the second week of the season and played well enough to become the official starter. But McFadden broke his forearm tackling Cedric Benson on Oct. 19 and missed five games. He's hoping to return this afternoon.

"I'm hearing good things, but it's not all the way healed," McFadden said. "But it has made great improvement the last couple of weeks from the last bone scan I had."

McFadden said he'd wear "an eggshell" type of protective device if he does play today after practicing (non-contact) all week. Townsend also hopes to return from a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable after practicing this week.

For the Patriots, Seymour (knee) and Warren (groin) say they're playing. LB Tedy Bruschi (knee), CB Ellis Hobbs (shoulder) and RB LaMont Jordan (calf) are also questionable. Jordan hasn't played since Oct. 5, but practiced the last three days. LB Adalius Thomas (forearm) is out and WR Kelley Washington (thigh) is doubtful.

HALL OF FAME VOTE

Tunch Ilkin has been a proponent of putting Dermontti Dawson into the Hall of Fame since Dawson became eligible four years ago. But the former offensive tackle and current analyst for the Steelers Radio Network has other favorites.

"Why isn't Dick LeBeau in the Hall of Fame?" Ilkin asked. "Why isn't Andy Russell in the Hall of Fame? Andy Russell played in like seven Pro Bowls, two Super Bowls. Why is Donnie Shell not in the Hall of Fame? More interceptions than any strong safety in the history of the National Football League. Go figure."

So who would Ilkin put in first?

"My first is Donnie Shell," he said. "No, maybe Andy Russell Yeah, Andy Russell because he's older, and my next vote is Donnie Shell. Dermontti's third. I'm doing it by age."

Wouldn't that put LeBeau first?

"Oh, yeah, I forgot Dick LeBeau. Yeah, Dick's first."

So, with all of these emergency cases, perhaps Rod Woodson can wait a year?

"Oh, Rod's up, too? Oh, wow. Yeah, Rod can wait. Rod's a shoo-in anyway. Rod will probably be in before any of them, though. That's the reality of it. Yeah, I guess it isn't that easy picking these Hall of Fame guys."

QUOTABLE

Hines Ward laughed when a reporter joked with him that, without Harrison playing for the Patriots, he'd be the dirtiest player in the game.

"I got promoted, huh?" Ward said. "I thought I was a candidate for the Walter Payton Man of the Year."

MOVES The Steelers re-signed running back Najeh Davenport to their active roster and released rookie cornerback Roy Lewis.

Also, the kickoff for the Steelers' Dec. 14 game against the Baltimore Ravens has been moved to 4:15 p.m.


Steel City Insider Top Stories