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After his 13-carry, 19-yard stinker of a performance in the opener, people are diving off the Willie Parker bandwagon at an alarming rate. Jerome Bettis famously said, "I haven't seen much from him." ESPN's Colin Cowherd said on the air Friday that Fast Willie has definitely lost a step. And Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio hinted that Mewelde Moore may be in the on-deck circle, ready to step in to take Parker's job as the Steelers' feature back, passing 2008 first-round pick Rashard Mendenhall in the process.

The debate has raged ferociously all week, but the first instance I've seen of anyone using hard statistical analysis in their case was Dutch Wydo of the Herald Standard. Using 2008 stats, Wydo outlined the case for Moore, starting with his 17 receptions for first downs, as opposed to Parker's zero. He further broke down the two backs in so many ways that a Sabermetrician would blush.

As you know, I'm a big "evidence" guy, and I've got to admit that the evidence certainly seems to hold some merit in this instance. I've always been a big Willie Parker fan; unlike others, I've never dismissed him merely because "he wasn't good enough to play at North Carolina". And as I pointed out the other day, in 2006 Parker posted 1,716 yards of offense and 16 touchdowns - one of the greatest offensive outputs you will ever see in a Steeler uniform.

The only problem for Parker is that the year is 2009. In 2005's season opener, once again facing the Tennessee Titans, Parker ripped off 209 yards of rushing and receiving and a touchdown - 185 more yards than in this year's opener. So what happened over those four years? For starters, his yards per carry has declined by 0.3 every year since then. It's gone from 4.7 in 2005 to 4.4, 4.1, and 3.8 in 2008. For 2009, it sits at a ghastly 1.5 after one game.

So is Parker "washed up"? Who am I to say? A lot of people tried to push Jerome Bettis out the door around 2002 or so, and he wound up playing through 2005. The difference was that Bettis adapted to a new role. Is that where we're at with Fast Willie? I think that's impossible to say after one game. But as history has proven, even if it is, it doesn't automatically signal the end of his career.

Moore should start over Parker
[Herald Standard]

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Unknown said...

the issue with willie, is that he's just extremely fast and has raw skill. he succeeded greatly when the steelers had one of the best lines in the league and opened up massive holes for him. In 2005, every game the steelers plan was to run; the defense knew it was coming but just couldn't stop it---the offensive line was just better.

now that the o-line isn't as strong willie isn't performing because he doesn't have as much ability to find holes and read a play, he's just got exceptional speed.

It's not that he's washed up or not a decent back, he's just not fit for this type of offensive line or style of offense.

When he played last year, mewelde did very well. I say give him a shot until Mendenhall is ready.

(or just wait until Willie gets injured because it going to happen at some point this season)

Nate said...

I think Moore is probably a more complete back than Willie Parker. He can catch, run, and even break a tackle or two. I was always an advocate of him getting more carries on the pre-Peterson Vikings as well.

He certainly did an acceptable job as a starter for us last year running behind a slightly worse version of the same line. Add in his receptions, and he's a downright good back. If we're moving towards being a passing offense (and we are), why not have a back that gives Roethlisberger another option out of the backfield?

I like Parker, but as Sam said, he won't be able to run behind a line as bad as ours. Put him on a team with a good or great line and we'd see him put up numbers similar to 2005-2007.

Unknown said...

Granted there weren't many, but it didn't seem like Willie was hitting the holes very confidently last Thursday. I saw some tap dancing.

Mewelde has proven to be a nearly perfect back for 3rd-down/2-minute-drive situations.

I'd give Willie just a little more time to get back in the swing of things (he had so little preseason work), but Mewelde definitely deserves his playing time.

Anonymous said...

During the Tenesse game, I said to a friend I was watching the game with, Willie Parker now among the likes of Barry Foster, Bam Morris, Richard Huntley, Chris Fu'Amatu'Ma'Afala, and Deuce Staley.