James Farrior: ‘Pittsburgh Is The Place That Was Meant For Me’

The Pittsburgh Steelers are not known for making big splashes in free agency when it comes to bringing in players from outside of their own organization.  Notable signings in that regard are few and far between, and yet they did add a pretty significant piece during the preseason by acquiring Joe Haden to start at cornerback, though he was a street free agent.

All free agents, however, pale in comparison to the importance and the impact of inside linebacker James Farrior, who for a decade steered Dick LeBeau’s championship defense to near perfection. His pairing with Larry Foote, and then with Lawrence Timmons, was the engine that had the Steelers’ greatest defense since the Steel Curtain days running.

That is why the team included him in their series of Legends interviews, which I have been covering from time to time over the course of the offseason. The Steelers just put it up on their website yesterday, and it is worth watching and reading.

“I feel like Pittsburgh, since I played here and lived here for 10 years, it was my home”, he said during the interview. “This was the place I was born to play in Pittsburgh. No offense to the Jets organization, but Pittsburgh is the place that was meant for me”.

Farrior was a top-10 selection with the Jets in 1997 and spent the first five years of his career there, but he spent most of his time playing out of position there. The Steelers brought him in on a relatively modest contract and soon transformed the defense. And the city had as big an impact on him as he did on it.

“It was that blue-collar town feel”, he said of coming into Pittsburgh. “The team was more of a family atmosphere. The Rooneys are great owners. They set the tone right away. From there it trickled on down to the players. That is the type of atmosphere I loved being around. That is the type of atmosphere I thrived in. I think it changed the path of my career”.

One theme that has been everpresent in this interview series is that every player from the championship teams of the 70s repeatedly talked about the brotherhood, even through diverse backgrounds, that they always shared, and Farrior’s era was no different.

“I think that is what made the difference between championship teams and losing teams, our ability to be around each other and be together”, he said. “We all treated each other like family members. It started with the Rooney family on down. We all cared about each other. That bond created that tightness on the field”.

And he sees similar qualities, and similar potential, in today’s defense. He talked about the linebackers continuing the lineage and legacy that Farrior himself was a part of, and was very complimentary of Ryan Shazier, who made his first Pro Bowl last year. Perhaps one day he will sit down for a similar interview.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Jeff Dudash

    Those are all nice thoughts by Farrior and I always liked the guy. But I’ve considered the “brotherhood” and “camaraderie” of championship teams a chicken-or-egg question. The Steelers were 95-49 with Farrior on the team. It’s not too difficult for everyone to get along when you’re winning almost 2/3 of your games. So does “brotherhood” begat winning or the other way around?

  • CP72

    Pay attention Le’Veon Bell. You might be able to get “15” playing in New York, Houston, or Detroit, but those places aren’t Pittsburgh.

  • Jonny Panic

    Or he could walk out onto the football field and get crippled for life. These players careers are short, that’s why the money matters.

  • Grant Humphrey

    I really loved Farrior he came in and worked hard day in and day out (Take notes Lev Bell) I really admired him and respect him for that.

  • nutty32

    Did you know that Jack Lambert “held out” when his contract ran out in 1977 & that Mel Blount sued the Rooneys for $5 Million that same year? Kind of puts everything in perspective for me.

  • T3xassteelers

    Pretty sure you can do everything you want with $12 mil you could with $15 mil. It’s not like these guys are getting paid peanuts..

  • Jones

    It’s all coming together. Second sentence – Joe Haden is Big Ben’s long term replacement!

  • PaeperCup

    Honestly if that was their thought, they might think better before leaving school early to play a sport that could doom them for life.

    I get the point, but I don’t think that’s what’s on the mind of Bell. I might make a bold assumption that he’s not living in a $300k home, driving a Honda Civic, and saving or investing the rest of his earnings just in case his career ends soon.

  • PaeperCup

    These types of stories are countless for Pittsburgh. You probably get a few from other organizations, but I doubt it is a league wide sentiment. Pittsburgh definitely harbors a culture that embraces these Football guys.

  • Michael Pollard

    I knew it! Secret arm talent.

    Hats off to the scouts.

  • Jonny Panic

    Football is business. 3 million dollars is a lot of money.

  • JT

    Hopefully Pittsburgh is where Tyson Alualu and Joe Haden were meant to be.

  • NinjaMountie

    Yeah, but you have to go back a really long way to find a period when we stunk to find out what players thought then. Shoot, even the terrible 80s weren’t THAT bad. We only had one 10 win season but we made the playoffs 5 times, I believe.

  • Darth Blount 47


    The most underrated Steeler LB of all-time.

    Career totals: 230 games (197 started). 1,412 tackles. 35.5 sacks. 11 INT’s. 18 FF’s. 12 FR’s. 2 SB’s.

    And no offense to Troy or Peezy or Big Snack or Ike or Aaron Smith etc… But the LEADER of the LeBeau Constrictor Defense. An incredible player and man, on the field and off.

  • americanpatriot

    They equally co-exist; but both are essential.

  • Jeff Dudash

    I mean, just because YOU can’t think of what else you would do with $15m vs. $12m doesn’t mean that guys who actually HAVE $12m can’t think of what else they’d do.

    $3 million is a lot of money for everyone.

  • Jeff Dudash

    BTW, I’m okay if we never find out what it’s like to stink.

  • VaDave

    You all should have been around in the 60s…I’m with you Jeff, I don’t ever wanting to go back to that..lol. What a train wreck…the ’68 edition, the one Noll told when he was hired that most of them did not belong in the NFL. They were that bad.

  • Dorian James

    My man Pottsy, yet another great but underrated Steeler

  • VaDave

    Bingo. Things were not exactly peaches and cream on the labor relation front in the 70’s. We had 3 players signed up to play in the World Football league, Greenwood, White, and I think Hanratty.

  • cencalsteeler

    Minus taxes and your agents take, that leaves him with just enough to make another rap album, buy a few exotic outfits, have a few custom cleats made, and rent a luxury car for next years training camp entrance. 😉

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    I have James Farrior # 26 on my all-time Steelers list going into this season.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    I think Frenchy Fuqua jumped too.
    But overall, I’d say Steelers have good relations with their players. The WFL was offering more $$ so those players will probably making business decisions as much as anything. Mel Blount did sue the team over the whole “criminal element” remarks that resulted in Al Davis lawsuit that Chuck Noll had to testify in. That said, Mel Blount is a regular at Steelers games and Steelers sponsored events so it appears there was no lasting hard feelings. There are probaboy a number of former Steelers that don’t hold the team in high esteem – but believe most do.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Yes. The 60’s were putrid. Fives seasons the Steelers had a winning percentage of .375 (equivilent of a 6-10 season) or less.That has happened only five times since -1970; 1986; 1988; 1999 & 2003.

    For comparison:
    1930’s (1933-39): 6 seasons .375 or less.
    1940’s: 5 seasons
    1950’s: 2 seasons

  • pcantidote

    Was it really the greatest defense since the Steel Curtain? Is that a factual claim based on stats? I’d like to see a comparison with the 92-97 defense which felt more dominant to me, especially when you consider they never had a good QB to help get them some points and keep them off the field. Both were great D’s no matter what. I hope the new era is beginning now. We have one of the youngest defenses in the league now and I feel like it is probably the best D we’ve had in 4-5 years.

  • 6 ring circus

    I don’t think he is underrated by Steeler Nation, though.

  • BB

    Joe Haden plays Cornerback, not not Quarterback Marczi

  • T3xassteelers

    You guys act like $12 mil still isn’t a lot of money…

  • VaDave

    I’m wondering if and when Troy Palamalu returns. From what I gather,
    He was pretty steamed he restructured his final contract , an accommodation to free up cap space that was back loaded, and got cut before he could collect. He lost several millions. I’ve noticed when he talks about his career, it’s always about his career in the NFL, not the Steelers.

  • Dorian James

    Oh no,WE knew what we had. But Ray Lewis and Zack Thomas took all the press,and pro bowls lol

  • Darth Blount 47

    Pass / Run / Scoring / Team D / Sacks / INT
    1992: 8 – 17 – 14 – 2 — 36 – 22
    1993: 15 – 3 – 16 – 8 — 42 – 24
    1994: 3 – 7 – 13 – 2 — 55 – 17
    1995: 6 – 2 – 26 – 9 — 42 – 22
    1996: 5 – 3 – 20 – 5 — 51 – 23
    1997: 18 – 1 – 24 – 11 — 48 – 20

    Pass / Run / Scoring / Team D / Sacks / INT
    2004: 4 – 1 – 3 – 1 41 – 19
    2005: 9 – 5 – 3 – 4 47 – 15
    2006: 20 – 3 – 11 – 11 39 – 20
    2007: 3 – 3 – 2 – 2 36 – 11
    2008: 1 – 2 – 1 – 1 51 – 20
    2009: 16 – 3 – 12 – 13 47 – 12
    2010: 12 – 1 – 1 – 1 48 – 21
    2011: 1 – 8 – 1 – 1 35 – 11
    2012: 1 – 2 – 6 – 6 37 – 10
    2013: 9 – 21 – 14 – 14 34 – 10
    2014: 27 – 6 – 18 – 18 33 – 11

  • pcantidote

    Wow, thanks for that. Any conclusions in there? Why did you include 13-14? Our defense was pretty bad those years by Steeler standards anyway. I would have went with 2001-2012, which also pretty closely approximates the Farrior years by the way.

  • pcantidote

    Funny thing about Farrior was that by the end of the year he always looked like he was playing at a weight of about 205.

  • Darth Blount 47

    You’re welcome, took me a bit. Lol.

    Just for posterity did I include the last 2 years, since they were under LeBeau. Shows how far we fell at his end and what happens when the talent well starts to run the driest.

    As far as conclusions… I think it is fair to say that those 90’s teams were known for Blitzburgh and Rod Woodson and those picks. They seemed to have the advantage in those categories pretty consistently. But the Highs of the LeBeau defenses were higher, not only in ranking value (being number 1 in categories over and over) but also in the achievements as a whole (3 AFC Championship wins).

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Yes, he definitely wanted to play some more as did Hines Ward. Troy has a lot of rectitude and if he feels ripped off he may never return.

  • VaDave

    The 3-4 defense is a great defense vs the run, if run properly. Pretty much, the DL’s main function is to keep the LBs “Clean” , and let the LBs make the plays. If they can do that, it’s pretty hard to run against it. It’s also reasonably flexible vs the pass, causing major confusion. Cleveland Kiser’s reaction last Sunday to it was a classic. The kid never knew what was going on for the most part.

  • Dee Evolution

    I can’t argue the stats, but my eyes tell me that those teams of the early Cowher era put the fear of God in teams in ways that the modern Steelers couldn’t/haven’t. The tandem of Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden/Deshea Townsend presented nowhere near the dilemma for quarterbacks as Woodson and Figures. Ray Seals, Joel Steed, Brentson Buckner/Nolan Harrison were basically three nose tackles; flanked by freakish OLBs Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd, with BIG Levon Kirkland or Chad Brown coming through the A/B gap…. Pick your poison.

  • Conserv_58

    The success or failure of any defensive scheme greatly depends on the personnel chosen to make that scheme work as designed.

  • Conserv_58

    Potsie and Jerome Bettis are at the top of my list as being two of the most impactful free agent signings the Steelers ever made.

  • Conserv_58

    Both Hines and Troy may have wanted to play more, but there was no question that both were unrealistic about their diminished abilities. Both were at the point in their careers where their brains were writing checks their bodies could no longer cash.

  • Conserv_58

    Didn’t Troy have the choice not to restructure his contract?

  • Darth Blount 47

    We traded for Bettis. But I think your point of neither of them being “homegrown” is well taken. Both guys are in my top 10 of favorite Steeler players of all-time. Bettis being higher on the list but I’m a HUGE Farrior fan.