As we see what appears to be a good OL for the first time in a few years, I am reminded of when FWP was making plays, and I realized maybe just maybe he was slightly over-rated as a runner.
Now you may be thinking to your self how is a guy who had 5,378 yards and 24 TD in 5 seasons for the Steelers be over-rated, its simple he had one of the best Steelers Offensive Lines to run behind that we have ever had, with Harting, Faneca, Simmons, Marvel and Max to run behind. I could have run for at least 500 yards behind that line and I am incredably slow and in terrible shape, add in Krider and Heath and Truman as the FB and TE's we were going to open some holes that Ray Charles could have ran through. Now after Jeff Harting retired in 2006 it started to go down hill for Willie, after almost winning the rushing title before breaking his leg against the Rams in 2007 he fell off a cliff going from 1494 yards in 06 and 1316 in 07 to 791 in 2008 and 389 in 2009 before being released in the offseason. Now is this all to do with his broken leg, no but some of it could be blamed on it, to a larger degree it is due to the fact that our OL went from Hartings to Sean Mahan to Hartwig that alone will cause rushing yards to go down, but add in the releasing of Dan Kreider and Jerame Tuman in 07 to move to BA more wide open offense and Alan Faneca leaving over a dispute with the Rooney's over MT becoming the Head Coach instead of Whiz.
After that both his yards and attempts crashed out, this could be due to many things hesantacy to hit the hole with authority for fear of rebreaking his leg, the fact that Kendall Simmons was released after suffering a back injury, Marvel Smith being released in the same year and Max having to learn the LT position which forced everyone favorite scapegoat for every problem the OL has had for the last three years Willie Colon to move to RT after being drafted as a RG out of Hofstra, let that sink in for a second he was playing teams like Slippery Rock College and NYU and Brown week in and week out I think there is an adjustment period, Kemo now had to fill in at RG. Again let this sink in we have one starter left from the SB XL offensive line, there is going to be a period of adjustment to a new line especially when we are trying to turn Maulers into Zone Blockers and have Gary Russel as our FB, my God that was a bad idea, compound that with the fact that we had no real RB depth and he was the Guy he got run down, no pun intended, real fast.
Think back to the great runs in his career, the 76 agains the Seahawks in the SB, you could have driven a truck through that hole, and most of the other great runs he bounced to the outside and just outran everyone. So there is my case that Willie was over-rated as a RB and his success can be tied into how dominate our OL, TE, and FB were at controlling the LOS.