Liking the look in his eyes

If there was any question as to why Mike Tomlin felt the need to continue playing his starters deep into Pittsburgh Steelers game against hapless Cleveland Browns, the look on Willie Parker's face afterward said it all.

If there was any question as to why Mike Tomlin felt the need to continue playing his starters deep into Pittsburgh Steelers game against hapless Cleveland Browns, the look on Willie Parker's face afterward said it all.

You could see the confidence in Parker's eyes after the game. You could see him gaining confidence in his previously injured knee as he got more carries in Sunday's 31-0 thrashing.

You could hear it in his voice after a 23-carry, 116-yard effort.

"It meant a lot, just going out there and taking the carries and running the ball," said Parker. "I haven't done that in a long time. So it meant a lot."

Indeed. Parker broke off a 34-yard touchdown run and very nearly broke free for a couple of other long gains.

You could see the spring in his step after his 34-yard scoring run and opponents are now on notice again that they can't just forsake the Steelers' running game and key on the pass.

If they do that, Parker still has that extra gear to beat them.

That was important to show.

As Bill Cowher used to say, I liked the look in his eye.

© It was also important for Ben Roethlisberger to come out and play well Sunday after a four-turnover game at Tennessee last week.

Roethlisberger was playing well until he suffered a concussion late in the second quarter.

Tomlin led this team through the league's toughest schedule - maybe ever - and to a 12-4 record. It wasn't always pretty, but it was effective.

He thought Roethlisberger needed to play and I have to concur.

It's too bad that Roethlisberger suffered the concussion, but that's football.

There was no panic in the Steelers' locker room. Roethlisberger is expected to be ready for the playoffs in two weeks.

© Bruce Gradkowski's performance Sunday was perhaps the worst I've seen in 16 seasons of covering the Steelers. And I saw every game Kordell Stewart started in person.

A 1.0 quarterback rating is the NFL equivalent of a Blutarsky.

Maybe any time a quarterback stinks it up like that in the NFL it should be called pulling a Gradkowski.

Then again, in Gradkowski's defense, the Browns weren't real creative with their play calling because he's been with the team less than a month and Cleveland's sole intention in this game was getting Jamal Lewis the yardage he needed to go over 1,000 this season.

Way to set your goals high fellas.

© That's two pretty good games in a row for Mitch Berger, who averaged 46 yards per kick Sunday.

Can we get off his back already?

I know two of his four punts went for touchbacks, but William Gay completely blew a shot at downing one of those touchbacks.

For some reason, Gay was standing inside the five and let the ball bounce into the end zone when all he needed to do was catch the ball.

© Hard to believe that was the first shutout of the season for this defense Sunday.

This team gave up 19 offensive touchdowns all season and never more than three in one game. That's outstanding.

© Just in case you're keeping track, both Santonio Holmes (55 catches) and tight end Heath Miller (48) set career highs for receptions in a season.

So did Nate Washington with 40.

The Steelers also finished with four receivers with more than 500 yards receiving each.

That's only the third time since the 1970 merger the team has accomplished that. The other two times (2006 and 1981), the team finished 8-8.


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