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BB2W 07-14-2005 03:01 PM

Russ Grimm, on Alan Faneca.

He coaches the Steelers' offensive line and, after 24 years in the NFL, knows a good lineman when he sees one. He sees a great one every day in Pittsburgh guard Alan Faneca.

"He is way better than I was," says Grimm, the assistant head coach. "I had some good years, I was 6-3, 285. He's standing there, 6-5, 310, 311. He can run; he's bigger, stronger. When you get into comparisons like that, I don't think it's close."

The NFL Alumni Association named Faneca the NFL's best offensive lineman in 2004 ? not just the best guard, the best of all the front five in the league. He's become a dominant force behind the Steelers' power running game and a supreme pass protector, so good that he played half the 2003 season at left tackle.

Faneca made his fourth straight Pro Bowl last season and his third first-team All-Pro. It's no coincidence that players on each side of him, left tackle Marvel Smith and center Jeff Hartings, joined him in Hawaii last February, the first time in Steelers history three linemen made the Pro Bowl.

Faneca also may go down as the Steelers' best offensive lineman. At 28, with no major injuries behind him and in his prime, he could add another seven or eight Pro Bowls to his r?sum?. Before him, no Steelers guard ever made a Pro Bowl in two consecutive seasons.

"I said it when I first got here, I thought he had a chance to be one of the best," says Grimm, who joined the Steelers in 2000, two years after they made Faneca their first-round draft choice from LSU. "He can see things happen before they happen."

His feet are so quick, the Steelers use him to pull and often lead a power run to the right side in front of Jerome Bettis or Duce Staley. It was on such plays that he dominated a game in Cincinnati in 2003.

Guards are at their best when they go unnoticed, but Faneca was so overwhelming he was nominated for AFC Player of the Week that September against the Bengals. He pulled one time to his left and hit linebacker Adrian Ross so hard his helmet flew off. Later, he pulled to his right on a power counter and rammed into Ross with such force he put him flat on his back, his head rudely bouncing off the grass.

"The guy just disappeared," quarterback Tommy Maddox says.

Several weeks later, with Smith out for the season with an injury, coach Bill Cowher asked Faneca to move to left tackle, a position he had never played. The move jeopardized his potential postseason honors and bonus money that goes with them. Faneca never hesitated; he played nine games there and still made the Pro Bowl at guard.

Last season, Faneca returned to guard and the Steelers returned to their dominant running game, No. 1 in the NFL, in a 15-1 season that ended in the AFC Championship Game. He started all 16 games, as usual ? he started 12 games as a rookie and has missed only two games since.

In a rare false start, Faneca sounded harsh in an early-season assessment of rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "Do you want to go work with some little young kid who's just out of college?" he said.

But by season's end, Faneca said of Roethlisberger: "He's special."

So is Faneca.

"It's great to be recognized," he says, "and know that at the end of the season, someone is saying, 'You had a special year.' "

clevestinks 07-14-2005 03:39 PM

Re: Russ Grimm, on Alan Faneca.
No surprises here. Grimm knows what we know, and we are not HOF`ers. Faneca is awesome. This guy along with Hines Ward and the Bus are the main parts of our offensive machine.

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