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Parker already taking Mendenhall under his wing


By Teresa Varley

The Steelers introduced number one draft pick Rashard Mendenhall to the media on Friday, the first day of the team's mini-camp.

But well before the press conference Willie Parker met Mendenhall and he is looking forward to him joining the Steelers backfield.

"He's going to come in here and make me better and I'll make him better," said Parker. "I'm going to take him under my wing like anybody else. He's a good running back and I hope for the best.

"He's going to push me and he's going to save me for the carries in the games. Either or, you pick it or choose it, it's for the best."


Mendenhall spoke shortly after leaving the field after the team's first practice of mini-camp. For him it was a learning experience, one made much easier thanks to Parker and the rest of the running backs.


"You are thinking and there are nerves and you have butterflies, thinking how am I going to pan out," said Mendenhall. "To be out there and to be making cuts and catching the ball, I am starting to feel comfortable. This is what I do, to be out there and to be able to do it feels good.


"I was kind of nervous coming in, but the running back room and Willie have been nothing but professional since I've been here just trying to help me as much as they can. The better I do, the better they are going to do and we are going to be as a team."

Parker had the benefit of learning from Jerome Bettis when he came to the Steelers and now it's his turn to become a mentor to a younger player.


"I've been in the league a little bit, so I definitely can teach him," said Parker. "That's what I've been doing. I embraced him as soon as he came in, trying to teach him the ropes and stuff."


And what kind of lessons is Parker passing along to the young back?


"How to be a professional," said Mendenhall. "He has been here for a few years.  He is showing me how to work, what to do, how to carry yourself as a professional and as a man."


Mendenhall is likely to get carries this season to give Parker a break, but there could be times when both of them are on the field at the same time.


"You need weapons and if you have the weapons then it makes sense to use both of the running backs at the same time," said Mendenhall. "I think that would be cool to be out there with Willie at the same time.

"It's the first day of practice so as camp goes on I will begin to find my role and whether that is playing a lot or playing a little bit more of special teams, it's just how things happen. Whatever they ask me to do, I am going to do. Like I said, the better he does the better I do and I am going to do whatever to make the team better."

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