Running game in gear heading into playoffs


By Teresa Varley

The Steelers go into the playoffs with a 12-4 record and the number two seed in the AFC.

With their performance against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, they also go in with a renewed sense of confidence in their running game.

The game plan was to run the ball against the Browns and that they certainly did.

"It was a good feeling, knowing we were going to go out there and run it," said running back Willie Parker. "Coach (Mike) Tomlin told us Monday that we were going to pound the football. That's what we've been practicing all week.

"It was up to their defense to stop it. Their defense definitely didn't give up. We just had in our minds that we were going to run the ball, and we just kept pounding."

Parker had one of his best outings of the season, carrying the ball 23 times for 116 yards. Parker had his longest run of the season when he broke to the outside for a 34 yard touchdown in the second quarter.

"It meant a lot, just going out there and taking the carries and running the ball," said Parker. "I haven't done that in a long time. So it meant a lot. It was really important. You know I haven't rushed for 100 yards in a while, so to get back on my feet and rush for 100 yards, it felt really good doing it."

This was the first time Parker rushed for 100 yards in a game since he gained 115 against the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 16. It was also his fourth 100-yard game of the season.

"We just had our mindset that we were going to get this running game going. That's one thing we were going to get corrected in our offense."

Parker, who had concerns about the running game earlier in the season, likes the direction they are headed in at the most important time of the year.

"It's definitely got to be okay," said Parker. "This was the last game of the regular season. Going into the playoffs, you have to be on a high.

"We run the football. We're a running team. We have a running format no matter what we do. We can run the football. It's just a matter of doing it."

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