The Enigma that is Fast Willie Parker

Mark PetroCorrespondent ISeptember 16, 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. Steelers won 27-23. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Main Entry: enig·ma
Pronunciation: \i-ˈnig-mə, e-\
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin aenigma, from Greek ainigmat-, ainigma, from ainissesthai to speak in riddles, from ainos fable
Date: 1539
1 : an obscure speech or writing
2 : something hard to understand or explain
3 : an inscrutable or mysterious person

Fast Willie Parker doesn't appear to be playing with as much heart as he is "talking up"  with every chance he is provided.

Here's my contention about Fast Willie Parker ....

He is playing in the final year of his contract.

He is an NFL running back.

NFL running backs don't like to play and risk major injury without a guaranteed contract.

Parker has stated publicly (and was earnestly "STFU'd" by Coach Tomlin) his less than enamored feelings about the changes within the Steelers rushing system as recently as mid-season last year.

Just a few days ago, Coach Tomlin publicly endorsed Parker as his 300+ carries guy this season.

The Steelers drafted a 1st round running back and paid that guy on par with Parker, without that guy even having ever taken an NFL carry.

And then a few points I'd like to make about Jerome Bettis, who has been more than minimally critical of the Steelers poor o-line play and poor running back play these past two seasons ...

Willie Parker has a huge attachment to the "Bus". Parker admires Jerome more than any other player he has played with or against in the NFL. It was Jerome that brought Willie Parker under his wing. It was Jerome who taught Parker how to prepare mentally and physically to be an NFL gameday RB.

That said, when Jerome is publicly busting on the Steelers, as he has twice in his short NFL analyst career now. Could it be Willie Parker who is taking that message to heart the most out of any Steelers holdovers from the Jerome Bettis years? There is a discernible influence Jerome Bettis still has upon Willie Parker.

I stated something to this effect last season on a Steelers message board that I frequent.

Do you think Jerome and Parker aren't texting to this day?

Do you think Jerome maybe could be influencing Parker's thoughts regarding the system changes in Pittsburgh and how negatively those changes are impacting Parker's stats and career?

And then the Steelers draft a running back in Round 1 last year who is paid on par with Parker... ?

If this is Parker's last year in Pittsburgh, is he really going to "put out" and risk major injury when he has absolutely no long-term deal in place ... ???

Does Parker really want 300 carries this year, and the wear and tear that come along with it, like Coach Tomlin insinuated in the media last week?

My guess is that Bettis is very possibly playing the "Grima Wormtongue" to the conscience of Willie Parker and is influencing Parker's next move out of Pittsburgh in subtle ways that are "poisoning" Parker's desire to be the best he can be.

Bettis is extremely experienced at career-type performance issues ... he played the cards at the table of his career moves quite methodically in fact ...

Bettis went through a certain lag in performance during the Amos Zereoue years shortly after the Richard Huntley incident, when Zereoue started 11 games between 2002 and 2003. He was essentially outplayed by both Zereoue and Huntley over a 4 year mid-career stretch.

Is the Jerome Bettis we all "think" we know, as Steelers fans, the one-and-the-same Jerome Bettis who used chicanery throughout his entire Steelers experience to win at the game of NFL existence ... ?

And if that Jerome Bettis is influencing the day-to-day grind of Fast Willie Parker... are we really seeing the Fast Willie Parker we ought to be seeing... ???