By Mike Bires
Photo: David Hague – Inside Pittsburgh Sports
These are tough times for Willie Parker.
Even now as he’s close to fully recovering from a nagging turf toe injury, “Fast Willie” isn’t sure how much he’ll be used the rest of the season.
With Rashard Mendenhall running so well with the football, he’s firmly entrenched as the featured running back.
“Man, he’s running at a high level. Anybody can see that,” Parker said of Mendenhall. “I mean, I’m a running back. I like looking at the running backs, and I definitely look at him because he’s on my team. He’s running the ball with power. He’s running with a lot of enthusiasm.”
Mendenhall, the Steelers’ No. 1 pick in last year’s draft, has started the last five games. In two of those games, he’s rushed for 165 yards (vs. San Diego) and 155 yards (vs. Denver).
In fact, with Mendenhall playing so well in the 28-10 win over the Broncos, Parker didn’t get any touches.
Now that he’s close to 100 percent, Parker hopes to get some carries Sunday when the Steelers (6-2) host the Cincinnati Bengals (6-2). Ironically, Parker came down with his turf toe injury en route to gaining 93 yards in a 23-20 loss in Cincinnati on Sept. 27.
Yeah, I’m getting good,” Parker said. “I’m ready to get out there on that field. It’s just a matter of time. I’m just waiting patiently. When my time comes, when my number is called, I gotta make the best of it. I’m ready to go in and do whatever they got planned.”
Parker was told he will play every third series against the Bengals.
KEMOEATU PICKED ON SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’S MIDSEASON ALL-PRO TEAM
On the Midseason All-Pro team of Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, only one Steeler made it.
It wasn’t star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
It wasn’t star linebacker James Harrison.
It wasn’t star strong safety Troy Polamalu.
Instead, it was Chris Keomeatu, their starting left guard.
King called Kemoeatu a “feisty steamroller.”
“It’s an honor to hear stuff like that,” said Kemoeauto, a fifth-year pro who took over at left guard last year after Alan Faneca departed via free agency. “I think I’ve been doing all right, better than last year. I know how to play the game in a more professional way. I’m stating to learn more veteran kind of things.”
Kemoeatu, who signed a five-year contract worth $20 million in February, said playing behind Faneca for three years helped his development.
“It was a privilege to learn from him. He’s the best in the game,” Kemoeatu said. “I’ve never seen any guard play the way he plays the game. He’s perfect at everything he does.”