Let's continue our review of each and every Steelers player through five games with a breakdown of our running backs.
For Willie Parker, the start of 2008 was much like the beginning of last year. For two years running now, Parker has gotten off to a torrid start, earning AFC Player of the Week honors after his 138 yard 3 TD performance against Houston in Week 1. He followed that up with another 100+ yard game against Cleveland before being stuffed and ultimately injured against Philadelphia in Week 3. Parker should be back when the Steelers return to action against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7. With Mewelde Moore garnering more attention as an intriguing offensive weapon for this offense, it should be very interesting to see how Bruce Arians uses both him and Parker moving forward. Obviously Parker will get the lion's share of the carries, but if Arians were wise, he might deploy Moore on 1st and 2nd down on occassion, not simply use him as a 3rd down back. One thing we all probably agree on is the need for this offense to continue to evolve and try new things moving forward. I, personally, am very interested to see first if that will happen, and secondly, if so, how will Parker fit in to said changes.
Poor guy. Just as soon as he gets his opportunity to make something happen, Ray Lewis deals him a crushing blow to the shoulder and breaks one of his bones. If you had forgotten, Rashard had made a couple of nice runs in that Baltimore game before going down. A very unfortunate break for the rookie, but if nothing else, it should make him hungry as imaginable to prove he was worthy of his high draft status next year.
Outside of Ben Roethlisberger, Mewelde Moore would have to be considered the team's offensive MVP the past two weeks. In consecutive games, Moore came through with the goods on the final dive of the game. Against Baltimore, it was his pass catching primarily that set up the game-winning Jeff Reed FG. Against Jacksonville, he did it with both his hands and feet. He finished 1 yard shy of the century mark, and caught several cruical passes in both halves of the game. One man's trash is another man's treasure, baby. Moore has a deceptive elusiveness to him, and good insticts to go along with it. He's been as successful as Parker and Mendenhall were picking up those uninpsiring 2-3 yards up the middle, yet he's shown a nice aptitude for finding a crease when running outside the tackle, then either falling forward for another couple of extra yards or flashing nifty footwork and staying in bounds, as was the case on his long 25+ yard scamper against Jacksonville on our final drive of the game. Moore may just be the exact type of guy we need this year on an offense that may have problems establishing any sort of consistent rhtythm on offense. He should be catching 3-5 passes a game, and it might be wise to mix in some draws to him as well on 3rd downs when defenses try to tee off against our line. This is off the top of my head, but it seems as if we are in plenty of 3rd and 5-8 yard situations where Moore might be able to race by a blitzing defense for positive yardage.
Davis has done everything that has been asked of him in 2008. He's done a little blocking, some pass catching, and some ball carrying when we suddenly found ourselves without our top 2 guys. Davis himself went down with an injury in the Baltimore game and its unclear what his future with the team might be. For the year he has 10 carries for 18 yards and 2 catches for 9 yards. If the team opts to keep Gary Russell around and Najeh Davenport, is there a need to keep five guys at RB, particularly with Sean McHugh showing solid acumen as a lead blocker? I don't think there is. So in my mind, either Davis, Russell or Davenport has to be the odd man out. We've aleady seen that Moore is more than capable of filling in in a pinch, even as a #1 type guy, so why keep 3 guys (Dookie, Carey, Gary) who cumulatively might only be vying for a few carries per game? We'll see. Davis has been good on special teams too, so that's something to consider.
Najeh returned a few kicks and rushed the ball once in his return to the Steelers against the Jags. We'll see what his future holds when roster decisions are made public next week in preparation for the Bengals game. What do you guys think? Will he be dismissed or do you think we'll keep him around in place of Russell or Davis?
Russell continues to fight the uphill battle towards getting an opportunity to carry the ball in this league. He got a few calls last week and did just fine, but for whatever reason, he continues to find himself the odd man out when injurys are no longer a concern. We'll see if he catches a break this time around any day now.