Parker’s fantasy value on the rise

Steelers RB Willie Parker will be the go-to guy according to coach Mike Tomlin this season. (G.Newman Lowrance / NFL.com)

Steelers RB Willie Parker will be the go to guy according to coach Mike Tomlin this season. (G.Newman Lowrance / NFL.com)

If you play fantasy football, you know that running back by committees can make life difficult. Well, life just got a little easier if you drafted Willie Parker.

Coach Mike Tomlin told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Parker will be his featured back this season, and he has no plans to rotate carries with Rashard Mendenhall.

“Willie Parker’s our runner,” Tomlin said. “Rashard’s done a nice job and he’s going to get an opportunity to get his touches, but more important than anything else, Willie Parker is our runner.”

That’s good news for Parker, who’s in a contract year and should be motivated to produce between the white lines. However, his recent proneness to injuries still makes him a risk.

Parker missed five games last season due to injuries, and he missed three of the Steelers’ four preseason games due to hamstring problems. The ailment isn’t supposed to keep him out of Thursday night’s opener against the Titans, though.

The veteran back might also have to run behind a less-than-stellar offensive line.

Starting right guard Darnell Stapleton was placed on injured reserve with knee problems and has been replaced by Trai Essex. Tackle Marvel Smith’s left the team during the offseason and signed with the 49ers, but back issues forced him to retire.

Veteran guard Kendall Simmons, who was released earlier in the year, has signed with the Patriots.

Overall, it’s still safer to consider Parker more of a high-end No. 3 fantasy back and flex starter. Even though Mendenhall won’t share carries, he’s still a must-have for owners who take Parker.

Based on Parker’s recent injury woes, there’s a good chance Mendenhall will see some work. That makes him a valuable middle- to late-round handcuff.

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