By Teresa Varley
The Steelers will be without the services of running back Willie Parker this week as he is sidelined with a sprained left knee.
Parker is one of three starters who will miss Monday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field along with nose tackle Casey Hampton with a groin strain and defensive end Brett Keisel with a calf strain. All three players are considered week-to-week.
Parker suffered the knee injury in the Steelers 15-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
“He came out (of the game) and we knew he was uncomfortable,” said head coach Mike Tomlin. “We didn’t get the information until (Monday) when we were able to run some tests.”
Parker rushed for 138 yards in the first week of the season against the Houston Texans and followed that with a 105 yard performance against the Cleveland Browns. Parker had only 20 yards against the Eagles as the Steelers offense never got clicking.
Rookie Rashard Mendenhall will get his first NFL start filling in for Parker. Mendenhall had one carry for 10 yards against the Texans but didn’t have any carries the last two games.
“Rashard is ready,” said Tomlin. “He is a talented guy. He has been practicing well. He gets his opportunity and that is what team football is about. You look at his peers around the league and they’ve been getting opportunities, partly because they don’t have Willie Parker playing in front of them. He gets his opportunity. I am sure he is excited about it. I know our team is excited to see what he is capable of doing. What better way to start than on Monday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens.”
Mendenhall will get some help in the backfield from Mewelde Moore and fullback Carey Davis, but he will be the primary weapon in the ground game.
Chris Hoke will start for Casey Hampton at nose tackle and Travis Kirschke, who is likely to start again this week for Keisel at defensive end, will serve as Hoke’s primary back-up.
Rookie linebacker Donovan Woods (hamstring) also is ruled out for the game. The Steelers activated linebacker Patrick Bailey from the practice squad prior to the Eagles game to help fill that void on special teams.
“We have some other bumps and bruises that may limit some people early in the week,” said Tomlin. “Other than those people we are a healthy football team.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not appear on the injury list and isn’t expected to be limited in practice.
“I don’t think he will be limited at all,” said Tomlin. “We’ll see how he feels when he comes in on (Wednesday). He has some bumps and bruises. We don’t think it will limit him in terms of practice.”
Cornerback Deshea Townsend, who missed the last two games with a heel injury, is expected to run on Wednesday, but it isn’t sure when he will return to practice. Bryant McFadden has started for Townsend the last two games.
In other news the Steelers re-signed running back Gary Russell and placed him on the practice squad. Russell was released when Bailey was activated.