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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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They've had either Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich for what seems like ages now.

And when the Steelers really needed a backup, Leftwich couldn't deliver.

Leftwich rambled 31 yards for a touchdown Sunday against the Ravens, but other than that burst, the Steelers couldn't do anything on offense in a 13-10 loss that puts them in a bad position in the AFC North.

Leftwich, with his long delivery, looks better suited for the Pirates' bullpen than behind center.

He went 18-for-39 passing for 201 yards, but couldn't help a Steelers' offense that looks lost right now.

The Ravens came into the game with a weak defense. The thought was Leftwich could manage the game, the Steelers could find a running back to rely on and they'd escape with a win.

It didn't work out that way.

And it looks like we could see Batch at QB this week -- or someone else.

The Steelers are worried about Leftw…