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RB Parker targets Steelers' philosophy

| Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008

The Steelers have struggled to run the ball on a consistent basis this season.

Willie Parker said Wednesday that the Steelers may need to take a different approach to establishing the run and added that he would welcome an increased role for the fullback in the offense.

"We bring in two tight ends now, without a fullback, and (opposing defenses) know where it's going," Parker said of the Steelers' running game. "I just know when we get in two (tight end sets), it's not very successful. They definitely know where it's going."

The Steelers, who are 23rd in the NFL in rushing (103.6 yards per game), primarily run the ball out of a two-tight end formation.

That represents a significant shift in philosophy and is one that started in 2007, Bruce Arians' first season as offensive coordinator, when Carey Davis beat out Dan Kreider for the starting job at fullback.

Kreider, who is no longer with the team, is a traditional fullback who had been a key to the power running game with which the Steelers have long been associated. The 5-foot-10, 225-pound Davis is still listed first on the Steelers' depth chart at fullback but has played sparingly in that role this season.

"I definitely love running with a fullback," Parker. "We've got a fullback, but we don't play him that much. We can change, but that's not my call. I'm just a running back. You call a play and I'm going to show up."

Parker has rushed for a team-high 597 yards this season but has been hampered by knee and shoulder problems. The two-time Pro Bowler has missed five games because of injuries.

Parker's 3.9 yards per carry is a career low, and the Steelers' 3.6 yards per carry ranks 29th in the NFL. Parker has struggled against this week's opponent, the Baltimore Ravens, rushing for 215 yards and averaging just 2.8 yards per carry in the five games he has played against the Ravens dating back to 2005.

Parker has not been a factor in the passing game. He has just one catch for 4 yards.

"We kind of got away from the screen game this year and it's due to a lot of circumstances, a lot of reasons," Parker said.

When asked why the Steelers have gotten away from throwing screen passes, Parker said, "You've got to ask the offensive coordinator that."

Parker and wide receiver Hines Ward said the Steelers have to try to run the ball Sunday in Baltimore even though the Ravens are second in the NFL in rushing defense (77 yards per game).

Coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this week that an effective running game will be a key if the Steelers want to finish the season strong.

"Down the stretch, you have to be able to run the football in December," Tomlin said. "Good people close out football games, so we have to continue to work on it."

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