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Maybe Willie isn't as slow as people think

There should be no surprise about the supposed decline of Steelers running back Willie Parker.

Many people were unnerved about Parker's season-opening performance (13 carries, 19 yards) against the Tennessee Titans last week.

But a quick look at Parker's 2008 performance might shed some light:
  • at Eagles, 13 carries, 20 yards
  • at Redskins, 21 carries, 70 yards
  • vs. Bengals, 14 carries, 37 yards
  • vs. Cowboys, 12 carries, 25 yards
  • at Ravens 14 carries, 47 yards
  • at Titans, 19 carries, 31 yards
The overriding theme is Parker struggled against good defenses last season (you don't have to consider the Bengals a good defense).

He rushed for at least 100 yards against the Browns twice, the Texans and the Chargers twice (once in the playoffs). And if you think the Chargers have a stout run defense, look at how the one-dimensional Raiders ran against them last night.

So what the heck is wrong with Willie?

As I mentioned in another column, it's hard to put it all on Parker. If you're being swallowed by 300-pound defensive lineman in the backfield, the problem's not all yours.

The offensive line had its problems last season, and it wasn't upgraded in the offseason.

And, it's not like Rashard Mendenhall provides a jolt to the running game when he takes the field.

So, while Parker might be a year older, don't boo Fast Willie just yet.

If he can't carve up a bad defense, then it's time to worry.

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