Steeler Alan Faneca’s Call From Canton Must Wait Another Year

While the Pittsburgh Steelers faithful are celebrating the Hall of Fame induction of one of their own after former outside linebacker Kevin Greene was named as a member of the Class of 2016, another is left waiting, as former guard Alan Faneca failed to make the top 10 finalists in his first year of eligibility.

It has never been the easiest road for an offensive lineman to get into Canton, to be sure, especially for those who do not play on the outside position of tackle facing the premium pass rushers, but if there were a first-ballot guard out there, one might have thought it would be Faneca.

Drafted by the Steelers with the 26th overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, Faneca went on to have a very distinguished career, even if it took until his fourth season before he racked up his first token of recognition, making both the Pro Bowl and the first-team All-Pro team for the first time following the 2001 season.

Faneca strung together nine straight Pro Bowl seasons, in fact, from 2001 to 2009, missing the cut again only in his final season with the Cardinals. He made seven Pro Bowls with the Steelers before leaving in free agency to sign with the Jets in 2008, where he continue his Pro Bowl streak for two more seasons.

But he also made eight consecutive All-Pro lists from 2001 to 2008, with six first-team recognitions, the exceptions being the 2003 and 2008 seasons.

A member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, the ironman finished his career with an active 144-game playing streak at the time of his retirement. He was a Super Bowl champion with the team in 2005 and threw the signature block on the longest run in Super Bowl history, a 75-yard touchdown from Willie Parker.

His 13-year career saw him spend a decade in the Steel city mostly under Bill Cowher before departing in free agency. Despite the fact that he signed a five-year contract with the Jets in 2008, he was released after two seasons as a salary cap casualty, eventually joining many former Steelers teammates in Arizona, including his former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm.

There is no doubt in my mind that Faneca will in time be enshrined in Canton for his accomplishments on the football field, an honor that may be bestowed upon him as early as 2017. But though it will be a great honor for him, football is never what defined him, and he has gone on to new things after his retirement.

In the five years since his retirement, Faneca has dropped a significant amount of weight from his playing days, and has even completed a marathon, while spending a good deal of his time working with charities and being an advocate for epilepsy, from which he suffers. Perhaps few have gone on to what Chuck Noll referred to as their life’s work after their retirement with as much contentment as has Faneca, and I am sure he will be content if he has to wait one more year for Canton to call.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Big White

    The Hall has become as big of a joke as the Heisman Trophy. Tony Dungy was an great team builder but not a great game coach. Debartalo is a convicted felon who had to sell transfer ownership of his team. Alan Faneca is right there with John Hannah, Anthony Munoz, Larry Allen and the best to ever play as a lineman. Without a doubt should have been a first ballot just like T.O. The Hall has become an embarrassment.

  • RickM

    It would be interesting to compare Faneca’s stats to those you mention. I do get that it may take him some time to build the necessary consensus, but not even making the Top 10 really surprised me.

  • Big White

    I’ll go a step further than that. Without Faneca, one could plausibly take 20% off of Jerome Bettis’ Steeler rushing total and he may have been a Hall of Famer only due to a Veterans Committee vote.

  • RickM

    Possibly. But I checked both Faneca and team stats, and the Steelers were only in the Top 2 rushing teams once during his 10-year career. I thought we would be in the Top 5 virtually every year, but we weren’t in most years. You and I both love #66, but when it comes statistically to arguing for him, it may be a little more difficult than we think…especially against other strong candidates.

    That’s not to suggest he’s not a HOF; we both think he is. It is to suggest that one of the stats that I thought would sway voters his way – we were almost always a Top 5 rushing team – doesn’t exist.

  • Big White

    That is a shocking statistic. I would love to see how he pans out in today’s era with some of the new analysis where we see more of these individual grades.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Technically DeBartolo went in as a Contributor, so he didn’t knock anybody out. Dungy has an extensive body of work dating back to being the youngest and first black defensive coordinator in NFL history with the Steelers in 1984. He built two championship teams if you include the Buccaneers time that Gruden won with. The case can be made that the committee has silly stigmas against inducting multiple players from the same or similar positions in the same class (remember, Orlando Pace made it, and even he had to wait a year).

  • Big White

    I can appreciate that, but Dungy’s body of work also includes getting fired from a team that went on to win it without him. His skin color should be irrelevant. Again Dick Lebeau was twice the player and twice the coach and waited for 30 years to get in. If you look at the top 22 position players in my opinion TO would be WR2 right after Jerry Rice. If perhaps your top 22 don’t get as first ballot nominees something is definitely wrong. Dungy over Faneca…….perhaps but over TO……absolutely not.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well, two wrongs don’t make a right…even if the HOF committee uses that as justification to build a line of candidates at a specific position because they don’t want to induct more than one player from the same position at the same time. LeBeau went in purely as a player, and yes, he absolutely should have gotten in far earlier than he did. Same with Jack Butler. It was unfortunate that they slipped through the cracks for whatever reason. I think Terrell Owens’ reputation as a diva held him back this year.