There has been a rumor that the steelers will not re-sign Willie Parker and will allow Rashard Mendenhall to become the starting runningback. I believe this would be a poor decision by the Pittsburgh Steelers because Willie still has the potential to be an all-pro RB. What sets Willie apart from Rashard is his speed, agility and the ability to put on speed after beating the first man (which is a lot different from actual speed if you have ever been hit and then tried running with the same speed you had before) as well as his experience in the backfield.
Willie Parker is only 28 years-old and can still run as fast as the fastest men in the NFL. He came in running a 4.37 during the combine a solid time. Common sense would think he has dropped a couple tenth of seconds on that time after five years in the NFL as well as being injured multiple times. However i would not agree, these are trained athletes and the ones who come to training camp as dedicated as Willie Parker was this year can easily regain their speed. Runningbacks don't get slower, they get lazy because their body needs more workouts as they get older to keep the same amount of muscle. I believe Willie is back to 4.40 for the 40 yard dash though with no actual fact it's a flimsy point but training this hard has very good benefits for all qualities, especially mental.
Willie has the agility and ability to deke out the first man as well as lower the shoulder (depending on how big the other man is) and still keep his momentum. You could say this with a lot of star runningbacks in the league (Frank Gore, L.T, Clinton Portis, Adrian Peterson etc.) but for rookies like Rashard Mendenhall you often see them stutter step before hits and lose all their momentum or due to lack of training not be able to run at 75% after the hit. Willie is clearly leaps and bounds more agile then the heavy footed Rashard Mendenhall and all the way up into the 10 yard line that's what a team needs.
Willie has the experience to bank on when all else fails, he knows how the NFL is run, how defenders defend against the run and react in certain defense's and everything, otherwise he wouldnt have run for 1202 yards and 4 touchdowns in his first year not to mention 4989 yards and 24 touchdowns already in his 5 year career. Willie Parker was Jerome "The Bus" Bettis' protege, he learned when to hit the hole with full speed and which hole to hit, how to read each one and judge on what is to come. You cannot hope for something more, a relatively young runningback who is multi-tooled and intelligent in the game of football.
These reasons are why they should re-sign Willie Parker and at least let him grab the majority of the carries. Rashard isn't ready yet in the offense of the steelers, he cannot handle the workload and the training just yet. Do i believe Mendenhall will be their future runningback? Yes, but after Willie Parker retires with a respectable 10 000+ yardage under his belt as well as 5 super bowl rings. You just can't replace Willie Parker with Rashard Mendenhall and expect the same production Steeler fans expect from their runningbacks.