Having re-watched both 2009 games 5 times each, it is clearly apparent that running back Willie Parker has lost “it”, in fact he has lost several “it\’s”. To make sure, I replayed a few games from the 2006 season and it is obvious. First, the look in Parker\’s eyes, it is a different look, a look of un-sureness and lacking fire. Fast Willie could indeed be concerned about his contract, his home life, his health or many other things associated with life, but the eyes do not lie. Second is the burst. He may well indeed still be Fast Willie Parker, but he does not hit the holes fast anymore. Willie has never been accused of being a great in-between the tackles runner, but unless the hole is now big enough to drive a truck through, Willie wants no part of it. Instead, he tries to bounce everything outside and gives up on the play. The other noticeable thing is the little hop step or stutter step he has developed. That did not exist in 2006. It reeks of un-sureness. Sure I will give him the benefit that the 2006 offensive line might have been a better run blocking line, but through two games of the 2009 season, the run blocking as been more than adequate.
I wrote before the season started that Willie would be running out of town after 2009 and it is starting to come to fruition. He is averaging just 2.4 yards a carry in 2009 and second year running back Rashard Mendenhall is starting to eat more into his carries. Is Mendenhall the better back at this point? That is still really not clear, but the Steelers need to find out for sure what they have in him, soon. 17 months after drafting Mendenhall and we really still do not know much about him. He only has 26 regular season carries and thanks to a 39 yard run against the Bears, now has a 4.0 rushing average.
Winning makes stats insignificant. Head coach Mike Tomlin said after the Bears loss that he would rather run for no yards and win. I agree to a point, but despite rushing for 105 yards on Sunday, the running game still is not respected. “It” has to improve and if that “it” is starting Mendenhall over Parker, then so be “it”! If Parker remains the starter, then he needs to find what he did with all of his “it\’s”, because he has lost them for now.