Throughout the Pittsburgh Steeler dominance of the Jerome Bettis era a popular battle cry amongst both fans and players alike was RIDE THE BUS. Not only was Jerome an emotional team leader and media darling, he was actually an effective and in some ways unstoppable running back. Yes, he is the NFL's fifth all time leading rusher. Sure, he publicly announced that Takeo Spikes is a better linebacker than Ray Killewis and YES, he ran over Brian Urlacher in the snow during their Super Bowl year - but that's not where his greatness specifically lies. On first down - when the defense knew that he was running it - he was running for four yards and there was nothing that they could do about it. On third and short - let's say 3, and the defense knew that Kordell Stewart still didn't learn to throw the ball since first down - the bus was still getting to the marker. Back to 2007, an equally audible outcry- all right just mine - but what should be an equally audible outcry is PARK PARKER!
Hand off to Parker - its a second and 9 lock. Third down, long or short, and it's usually long, Ben must go shotgun because should they give it to Willie the next play the Steelers very ''special'' teams will grace the field allegedly covering the return. Granted, Ben's third down QB rating is through the roof, but can we realistically expect him to convert third and long consistently? Too often the opponents know he's throwing and Ben either gets sacked or someone gets called for holding, Ben occasionally creating a miracle. Why am I the only one to acknowledge Willie's ineffectiveness and ineptitude? That was rhetorical, however, the devil's advocate in the next paragraph will answer that question.
Wait a minute. Didn't Willie lead the Steelers to a super bowl in 2005 with a record breaking 75 yard rushing TD in the actual game? Didn't he rush for nearly 1500 yards in '06? Hasn't he already cemented a third consecutive 1000 yard season while posting the second most rushing yards in the league?
Yes, Satan, all of that is true. And what is also true is that Willie Parker can be an effective running back in the NFL - just not as the exclusive feature back that runs on every single first down. Sure, he'll sporadically run for more than a yard and has big play potential, but he leaves the Steelers with no consistently effective offensive attack. Even when he does dash for a ten yard gain earning a first-down, chances are he's not helping them get the next one. Sprinkle in a few big to tremendous gains at random times against usually bad teams and his stats look impressive-all while he is paralyzing his team. If the Steelers didn't predictably rush Willie on every single first down straight down the middle or if they had another legitimate feature back, then Willie would actually be able to contribute positively to the Pitsburgh Steelers. Until then, I must put Willie in the same overrated category as Troy Polamalu, who does a fantastic impersonation of a headless running chicken,and in whose absence the Steelers have gone 2-0 posting two shutouts.