The Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday officially ended the season of starting tailback Willie Parker, who suffered a broken right fibula in last Thursday night's 41-24 victory at St. Louis, by placing him on injured reserve.
To bolster the tailback position, the Steelers re-signed five-year veteran Verron Haynes, who was with Pittsburgh in training camp this summer, but released at the end of preseason in the final wholesale roster reduction. The Steelers had worked out Haynes three weeks ago, when they feared Najeh Davenport had a foot injury that might sideline him, but chose not to sign him at the time.
Davenport, who rushed for 123 yards in relief of Parker on Thursday night, will take over as the starter for the final regular-season game and the playoffs. Parker, who was the NFL's leading rusher at the time of the injury, is expected to be recovered in time for most, and perhaps all, of the offseason conditioning program.
Haynes, 28, will add some much-needed depth and experience to the Pittsburgh depth chart. He is familiar with the offense and will be expected to quickly contribute, likely as a third-down back, a role he has filled in the past.
The former University of Georgia standout was a fifth-round pick of the Steelers in the 2002 draft and played in 60 games with no starts in five seasons with the club. Haynes suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament last season, which limited him to seven games, and he was released on March 1 of this year.
But the Steelers re-signed him after he rehabilitated from knee surgery and brought him to training camp.
For his career, Haynes has 174 rushing attempts for 738 yards and three touchdowns and 57 receptions for 417 yards and two touchdowns.
Almost as important as his receiving skills is that Haynes is an excellent blocker in blitz pickup situations. He is also a standout special teams player.
Parker's injury likely cost him a chance to be the Steelers'
first NFL rushing champion in 61 years, or since Bill Dudley in
1946. Parker was hurt making on a cut on his first and only carry
during Pittsburgh's 41-24 victory in St. Louis.
Parker led San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson 1,316 yards to 1,311
yards, but Tomlinson had games remaining Monday night against
Denver and Sunday against Oakland.
Four other running backs were within 114 yards of Parker's lead.
Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.