Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Alan Faneca has a case for Canton
By Jason Vida
There seems to be little rush to open the doors of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to guards -- only Randall McDaniel and Bruce Matthews have a bust among guards to play in the NFL over the past 15 years -- but after announcing his retirement Tuesday, Alan Faneca faces five years of scrutiny on what looks like an impressive Canton resume.
Faneca earned nine Pro Bowl trips and was named AP first-team All-Pro six times in his 13 seasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Randall McDaniel, Will Shields and Larry Allen are the only players with more Pro Bowl selections as a guard (Bruce Matthews’ 14 Pro Bowls included five as a center). Allen is still two years away from being eligible for the Hall, Shields will be eligible for the first time in 2012 and McDaniel was elected in 2009, his third year of eligibility.
Faneca made an immediate impact after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 1998 draft, becoming the first Steelers rookie offensive lineman to start 12 or more games since the merger. After missing the Steelers’ Week 4 game the following season with an ailing ankle, Faneca would play in every game but one over his final 11 and a half seasons. From Week 5 of 1999 to the end of the 2010 season, Faneca played in 187 of a possible 188 regular-season games. The only game he didn’t suit up for in that span was the Steelers’ final game in 2001, when they had already clinched the top seed in the AFC.
Faneca ended the 2010 season with an active streak of 144 straight games started, the longest among guards in the NFL and tied with Atlanta Falcons center Todd McClure for the third longest by any offensive lineman. While Faneca failed to earn a Pro Bowl nod in 2010 for the first time in a decade, he was one of the few bright spots on an Arizona Cardinals offense that struggled to do much of anything. With Faneca at left guard, Arizona gained 5.10 yards per rush on carries to the left of center in 2010, up more than half a yard from 2008 and 2009, when the Cardinals averaged 4.50 yards and 4.48 yards, respectively.
At the very least, Faneca has a definitive highlight to show Hall of Fame voters. On the second play of the third quarter of Super Bowl XL, Faneca pulled right and flattened Seattle Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill, clearing the way for Willie Parker to scamper 75 yards for a touchdown, the longest running play in Super Bowl history. The Steelers went on to beat the Seahawks 21-10, giving Faneca his only Super Bowl ring in a stellar, Canton-caliber career.