View Full Version : Reason for Steelers' running woes: Faneca, Hartings no longer on line

09-27-2009, 08:46 AM
Reason for Steelers' running woes: Faneca, Hartings no longer on line

Does the name Alan Faneca ring a bell?

Surely you remember him. Big guy, long red hair and a beard. Used to play guard for the Steelers. Started for the AFC in the Pro Bowl the last eight years. You hardly ever hear his name mentioned around here since he left and signed with the New York Jets.

You would think his name would come up quite a bit since there's been so much talk about the ineptitude of the Steelers' running game. Faneca is a solid lock for the Hall of Fame. Maybe on the first ballot. The guy who replaced him - Chris Kemoeatu - has a really hard name to spell and is probably not going to have worry about who to thank in his Hall of Fame speech.

Then there's Jeff Hartings. Remember him? Another big guy. Pretty good center. Made the Pro Bowl in 2004. He's gone, too. He's been replaced by a guy whose name sounds like Hartings. But nobody has confused the way Justin Hartwig blocks with the way that Hartings used to block.

So, what's the big mystery about the Steelers' running game? Willie Parker has had injury problems the last couple of seasons but when he's healthy he looks like the same guy who was cranking out 1,400 yard seasons not too long ago.

Faneca and Hartings both signed huge contracts when they became free agents. You know why? Because they're really, really good at opening holes for running backs. Steelers fans like to think - maybe with good reason - that losing players to free agency isn't a big deal because there's always another good guy to plug in.

Sometimes you lose players who are impossible to replace. That was the case with Faneca for sure and most likely with Hartings. Any discussion about the Steelers' running game should begin and end with the absence of those two players.

Remember that 39-yard run through a huge hole by Rashard Mendenhall last week against the Bears? If that had been Willie Parker carrying the ball it would have been a touchdown.

I've always had a problem with running backs who turn their backs when they're about to be hit. Mendenhall does that a lot.

There's been a lot of talk lately about CEO pay and the need for the federal government to decide when it's too much. The Treasury Secretary said on Thursday that he hopes to have laws in place by the end of the year that would allow the government to step in. This would not be happening if not for the fact that the feds have taken over so much of what used to be the private sector, which means that some of these CEOs are, at least indirectly, being paid by the taxpayers. The argument is that any company that has been willing to take hundreds of millions of dollars from the government shouldn't be allowed to spend millions on any one employee.

Just wondering: Should that apply to quarterbacks? Should you and I be offended by the fact that the Rooney family was given hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars because they said they couldn't afford to pay for Heinz Field and then gave Ben Roethlisberger over $20 million in guaranteed money?

How about the taxpayers building an arena for the Penguins, and the Penguins giving two players - Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin - about $60 million in guaranteed money? If the idiots in Washington vote to allow the government to determine CEO pay, how can publicly subsidized quarterbacks not be next?

Sports Illustrated's Peter King, one of the most highly respected NFL writers in the country, came out with his list of the 12 greatest quarterbacks of all time last week. Sammy Baugh was No. 1 and Otto Graham was No. 2. I never saw either of them play - and you could argue for days about the different circumstances that existed when those dinosaurs were playing - but I have a problem with Kings list because Terry Bradshaw is 12th. That's still pretty good, but Bradhsaw is still the best quarterback I have ever seen.

You can tell me I'm being provincial or that I'm a homer, but when I look at the guys on the list ahead of Bradshaw, I can' t see any one of them beating him out for the job. Not Dan Marino, who didn't throw the ball any better than Bradshaw and wasn't nearly as elusive in the pocket. Not John Elway, who came the closest to Bradshaw in throwing ability but won half as many Super Bowls. Not Brett Favre, who also does nothing better than Bradshaw, and not Joe Montana, who was a great quarterback but is also one of the most overrated athletes of all time.

Football fans everywhere can thank Montana for the dink and dunk. He was a master of it and fattened up his stats by throwing to his running backs and by throwing eight-yard passes to the best yards-after-the-catch guy ever, Jerry Rice. All you need to know is that Roger Craig, a running back, caught 92 passes from Montana in 1985. Franco Harris never caught more than 37.

Go to Youtube and search "Terry Bradshaw highlights." You won't see any dinking and dunking. Pay attention to his runs near the end of the video.

John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.