Is Willie Parker Ready?

Christopher DownesContributor IJune 15, 2009

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Willie Parker #39 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs the ball against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Willie Parker is a key member of the Steelers offense. His speed and agility make him extremely elusive, which should help him stay healthy for quite some time—he's not a big guy, so his health is very important.

Pittsburgh's running game struggled a lot last year with Parker hurt and out of the lineup; coupled with No. 1 pick Rashard Mendenhall out for most of the season, the Steelers were forced to rely on the strength of Ben Roethlisberger's throwing arm more than they wanted to. With Parker back, the Steelers can return to the smash-mouth running game that they have built their organization on.

I think if Parker is to be successful, they must split the carries between him, Mendenhall, Moore, and Davis to maximize effectiveness and increase his longevity. He needs to be in good health at the end of the season to be effective for the playoffs, when his speed will be a significant factor. 

Parker can do a lot for Pittsburgh, particularly in the fourth quarter when teams are tired: a fast running back kills a tired team up the middle and on the edges, because teams that must respect the run create great play action pass opportunities.

So, will Willie Parker make it happen this year? I sure hope so. I want to see WAY FAST WILLIE PARKER this year; I want to see him break long runs for touch downs again like he used to.

Good luck to you this year; Willie Parker. I'll be watching with great anticipation.

Make us Steelers fans proud.