Steelers Notebook: Parker not expecting surgery
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Willie Parker said he doesn't think he will need surgery to repair the labrum that was torn Nov. 3 in Washington -- an injury that occurred when his shoulder popped out of joint and caused the two-time Pro Bowl running back to miss one game.
Parker also said he no longer uses the protective shoulder harness he wore for a few games because it restricts his ability to run, even though he rushed for 115 yards the first time he wore it in the Nov. 16 game against the San Diego Chargers.
That was the previous time he had rushed for more than 100 yards before ending the regular season with 116 yards against the Cleveland Browns.
"It lasted probably two games," Parker said, pointing to the shoulder harness that was sitting on a shelf in his locker. "It's restrictive, being a running back. I can't move around. I had to get rid of it."
Parker cited an example against the Browns in which he used a stiff-arm to help break a 34-yard touchdown run -- something he said he wouldn't have been able to do if he had been wearing the harness.
"I wouldn't be able to do that; I'd have to run like this," Parker said, pretending to make his body rigid. "So I had to take it off."
The players did not have to report till 11 a.m. yesterday because of the New Year holiday, and they had a surprise waiting for them when they did.
Coach Mike Tomlin decided to cancel the final practice of the week, sending the players home after meetings and a brief walk-through. They will not report to the South Side until Monday to begin preparations for their Jan. 11 playoff game at Heinz Field.
Because of the injury to Pro Bowl outside linebacker James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons played nearly the entire game against Cleveland -- rotating between right outside linebacker in the base defense and inside linebacker in the nickel and dime packages.
When Timmons moved inside in the substitution packages, Andre Frazier played in Harrison's spot.
"I'm not used to that [much time]," said Timmons, a first-round pick in 2007.
Because of the style of passing offenses the Steelers played in the stretch, Timmons has received a lot of playing time, mostly in the nickel defense. He replaces inside linebacker Larry Foote in those packages because the coaches want to take advantage of Timmons' speed, which allows them to match him against running backs, tight ends and, on occasion, wide receivers.
"He's a young player we want to come along," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "We look at Lawrence and Larry as equal players in that position. They can let you do a lot as a coordinator. It's an opportunity to get a young player some time. Now we have two veteran players there whereas before we had a veteran player and a brand new player. That's why you do it."
The Steelers defense, which ranked No. 1 overall and against the pass, finished the season with the fewest number of 20-yard runs (4), 20-yard passes (23) and 40-yard passes (2) in the league.
They were also first in points per game (13.9), yards per play (3.89) and third-down conversion percent (31.0, 71 of 226).
"Our goal is to not give up the big play, which leads to holding the score down," LeBeau said. "You can't deny these guys have done a tremendous job of that."
The biggest turnaround was in special teams. The Steelers ranked No. 1 in kick coverage (19.1) and fourth in punt coverage (6.2) after ranking 16th and 14th in 2007. The longest return of any kind was a 44-yard kickoff return by New England's Ellis Hobbs.
However, for the second year in a row, they ranked near, or at, the bottom of the league in their return game. The Steelers were 29th in kick returns (20.3) and tied for last in punt returns (6.0) this season.
First Published January 2, 2009 12:00 am