Memories of Willie Parker in the Preseason Make These Games Worth Watching

PITTSBURGH - AUGUST 18: Isaac Redman #33 of the Pittsburgh Steelers jumps over a Philadelphia Eagles defender during the preseason game on August 18, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Forgive the hazy memory. I can't recite the exact play or down and distance, but I remember very clearly what I was thinking the first time I saw RB Willie Parker carry the ball in the preseason.

"Wow."

He took one cut and exploded up the sideline. Probably gained five or six yards, not uncommon in a preseason game, but his speed was amazing. I remember thinking that trademark gait of his - you know, not the prettiest thing you've ever seen but the certain awkward explosiveness he had - was maybe why no one had heard of him.

And I mean, no one.

He wasn't drafted. He barely played in college. Including that preseason carry, he'd probably run the ball in a live game situation 10 times in the last five years.

He ran like it was his last chance. He also ran like it was his first chance. Maybe that's what years of watching the powerfully plodding Jerome Bettis did to us. I didn't mind driving a tank, but when you get to uncork a Ferrari, you remember it.

And they say preseason is useless. Pish.

Call me a snob, fine, but there's more to football than just the star players. Since I'm not paying to see it live anyway, I don't have any issue with watching the second half of a preseason game to see the fringe-roster Steelers players live in action.

It was Willie Parker back in 2004. We also enjoyed a young Isaac Redman in his King of Preseason days. Gary Russell, even. How much fun was Antonio Brown single-handedly shredding the Falcons' back-ups last year?

The dialogue pre-and-post game can be more fun too. Opinions can and will vary greater than the temperatures across the country when it comes to players' performances and evaluations. Some people key on certain players, and collectively, those opinions are posted on places like BTSC, bringing a rich tapestry of analysis that goes beyond a box score.

This is in no way a suggestion the preseason "counts" - whatever that means - the score isn't important to anyone who didn't see the game. But it's important to possible future starters and stars of this team and I'm looking forward to see which of the current Steelers' training camp roster players will fit into that category.


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