Parker's toe injury 'very painful'

PITTSBURGH – Willie Parker missed Wednesday's practice because of a turf toe – a "very painful" turf toe, otherwise known as a sprained big toe.

Parker's had the injury before, and played through it, so "it shouldn't be an issue," he said of Sunday night's game against the visiting San Diego Chargers.

He doesn't remember if he played well in those games. "I just know the pain," he said.

Parker thinks Cincinnati defensive tackle Domata Peko "rolled up on it" during Ben Roethlisberger's 1-yard sneak for a touchdown with 3:04 left in the third quarter.

Parker didn't tell the coaches about the injury until after the game. He played through the pain in the fourth quarter and gained only seven yards on five carries. It dulled a season-best performance by Parker, who rushed for 93 yards on 25 carries.

The Chargers' star tailback, LaDainian Tomlinson, suffered the same injury in the 2008 opener, and gained only 26 yards on 10 carries the following week, a career low at the time. He struggled with the injury all season.

If Parker can't play Sunday, 2008 first-round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall says he'll be ready this week. Last week he was benched by Coach Mike Tomlin for not being "on the details."

"He didn't feel my week of work was up to par," Mendenhall told reporters Wednesday. "As you go through the week and the game plan, you just learn, especially being young. Minor details are very major in this league. You've got to work your way through that."

If Tomlin's not satisfied with either Parker or Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore's also available.

The Steelers rushed for 124 (4.4 avg.) and 165 (3.9) yards in two wins against the Chargers last season.


Hines Ward went over the 10,000-yard career receiving mark last Sunday, but he believes the officials were watching him more closely than the statisticians since the officials cited Ward for two offensive pass interference penalties.

"That's where it all went down, in Cincinnati," he said of his infamous block last season that broke Keith Rivers' jaw. "I'm pretty sure they got a high alert: Be conscious of Hines."

One call was for a pick play on a pass to Heath Miller, and the other was for blocking while the ball was in the air, even though the pass was caught behind the line of scrimmage by Santonio Holmes. On the next play, Johnathan Joseph intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown.

"It's ‘a vague interpretation' is what they told me," Ward said of the odd ruling. "No matter if the ball was behind the line of scrimmage, you cannot block while the ball is in the air. Now, I did the same play in Chicago for Santonio and he went for about 20 yards. I blocked it no different than I blocked the last play."

Ward said the calls were made by different officials.

"If you're paying so much attention to me, what happened to the holding they were doing on me?" Ward asked. "The first PI pick we went back and made up for it. It really didn't negate us or hurt our play. The second one? I blocked it no different than Santonio blocked it for me. What's the difference in the two plays? I'm Hines and you were watching me, so that's the difference."


Standing on the sideline with Parker at Wednesday's practice were SS Troy Polamalu (knee), C Justin Hartwig (ankle), TE David Johnson (ankle), and Ward (no injury). Hartwig is expected to play Sunday.

Limas Sweed worked on the scout team, meaning he'll likely be inactive Sunday after dropping an easy touchdown pass Sunday in Cincinnati.

"Right now he doesn't have a lot of confidence," Ward said of the second-year receiver. "I think there's an anxiety. He tries so hard not to drop it, and I actually think he's hurting himself because he tries so hard not to mess up. We're going to need him down the stretch. If something were to happen to Tone or myself, he's right there in the mix. We're his teammates. We're not going to turn our back to him. He knows what he has to do when he gets another opportunity. I have confidence he'll make the play for us."

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