On the Steelers: Parker dealing with toe injury
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Willie Parker will don pink shoes Sunday. They should match the color of his big left toe, which feels as though it had been hammered by a 325-pound meat tenderizer. Which, of course, it was.
The name was Peko, not pinko; defensive tackle Domata Peko of the Cincinnati Bengals.
"You ever have turf toe?" Parker asked yesterday before watching practice from the sideline. "Oh, it's painful; yeah it's real painful."
It is nearly as painful as watching the Steelers' running game these days, but, if Parker can pull on his pink shoes Sunday -- worn by selected Steelers and others around the NFL this weekend for Breast Cancer Awareness Month -- all might not be lost.
Against San Diego last season, Parker rushed for 115 yards in an 11-10 victory Nov. 16, and he rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-24 playoff victory against the Chargers Jan. 11.
"I think we just made up our mind we wanted to attack them and we did just that, just attacked their front three in the 3-4," Parker said.
That job would seem to be easier Sunday night without 350-pound Jamal Williams planted in the middle of that line. Williams, who could stop runs the way a frying pan flattens eggs, is on injured reserve.
"I think that'll be a big help," said Parker. "He's definitely a big guy up front. He clogs up a lot of holes and takes up a lot of space."
Parker then caught himself, remembering a prime rule of sports, not to underestimate your opponent.
"I'm pretty sure the guy behind him will do a pretty good job plugging the holes, also."
The backup's name is Ogemdi Nwagbuo, who weighs 50 pounds less than Williams. With him, San Diego's defense has been less than stout against the run. They rank 26th in the NFL, allowing a whopping 142.3 yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry.
Even the NFL's 27th-ranked rushing offense might have a chance to get better against that, provided Parker's pink toe cooperates. He has played with it before, but can't remember precisely when.
"I just remember the pain. It's just pain, just me knowing it's there, pretty much."
If Parker cannot get up to speed, the Steelers will have to count on Rashard Mendenhall Sunday night after coach Mike Tomlin counted him out last Sunday in Cincinnati.
Mendenhall, who ran into his quarterback in his first carry of the season vs. Tennessee, did not know the offense well enough to suit his coach. Parker takes partial blame for that.
"He made a lot of mistakes last week, and I was kind of on him and I think that's the reason he made mistakes," Parker said. "When you have people in your ear all the time, I mean it causes you to go out and play like he wants you to play, or coach wants you to play and you never really get back to playing like how you play."
Mendenhall took his medicine and said he is ready to make amends.
"It's just a learning experience, you know what I'm saying? You learn in the NFL that minor things are major, so be on top of everything. I'm just looking forward to get an opportunity and be able to play and show the fans and my teammates what I'm able to do."
The Steelers' 2008 first-round draft choice called it "frustrating" but had no problem with how Tomlin handled matters with him.
"I respect the way he handles things; he addresses them, and that's the end of it. He doesn't keep it with him. I respect the way he handles everything."
He said he will hit his playbook even harder this week and try to avoid the mistakes of last week. He also said he is not disappointed with the way his pro career has started, despite what happened last week and the fact his rookie season ended with a broken shoulder in the fourth game.
"Not really. I feel everything happens for a reason. I feel like to this point I've done everything I can here, with the injury and coming back in the preseason until now. I feel good, and I'm still learning and growing and I look forward to showing people what I can do."
Fellow 2008 draft choice, second-rounder Limas Sweed, wasn't so talkative yesterday. He declined to talk at all, even though he remains the talk of the town for dropping another potential touchdown pass in the open.
His coaches and teammates do not think it is for a lack of trying. Some believe he is trying too hard.
"Right now he doesn't have a lot of confidence," Hines Ward said. "He makes plays in practice. I watch plays in college, he's snagging it with one hand and all that.
"It's just confidence. You go out, you worry about a drop, I think it's anxiety. He sees the ball there, and it's like 'Oh, no.' He tries so hard not to drop it, I think he ends up hurting himself because he tries so hard not to mess up. We as teammates are not going to turn our backs on him."
It is obvious Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff did not consult the players when they released popular fullback Carey Davis before the season.
"No comment," offensive tackle Willie Colon said when asked if they made a mistake cutting him.
"That's my man. I'm happy to see him back. He was a strong part of this team last year. His blocking, the way he played on special teams. He's one of those guys when he's out there, you trust him, he's going to do the right thing, he's going to get it done. So to have him back, he's a key person."
Said Ward, "All the guys love him. Carey's one of those guys who not only can block, but catch, he's a veteran guy, he's been on this team, he knows his assignments."
First Published October 1, 2009 12:00 am