Harris: Farrior finds redemption in Cincy
By John Harris
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Steelers defensive captain James Farrior waited a year for a second chance like the one he received late Monday night.
Then again, Farrior will be the first to tell you that second chances can be overrated.
"Yeah, man, we got another chance," Farrior said following the Steelers' 27-21 win at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. "We thought we had it, but we let it slip away a little bit at the end. But we changed the outcome.
"Same defense. Same calls. We just played it better this time."
In Sept. 2009, the Bengals drove 71 yards in 16 plays, scoring the tying touchdown and the winning two-point conversion in the closing seconds of a 23-20 win at Cincinnati.
From that point forward, the local media and fan base determined that Farrior, who was 34 at the time, was beginning to display signs of slipping and slowing down in coverage.
Bengals running back Brian Leonard victimized Farrior for an 11-yard reception on fourth down to sustain that drive. He also caught the two-point conversion.
Farrior caught plenty of flak. One play had seemingly erased 13 years of exemplary NFL service. What have you done for us lately, Potsie?
It's easy to take Farrior for granted. All he does is line up and make plays. He doesn't bring attention to himself.
The ultimate warrior who has missed only four games because of injury since joining the Steelers in 2002, Farrior deserved better.
If Farrior had run out of gas, he wouldn't be starting. Simply put, no one on the roster has been able to beat him out.
That day is coming. Farrior said he won't overstay his welcome, that he will know when to say goodbye.
Until then, Farrior is determined to fight back. He threw himself into offseason workouts with speed and conditioning coach Tom Shaw in Florida. Shaw said it was the hardest Farrior worked in years.
Farrior would only say that he took criticism of his game extremely personal.
Playing the Bengals, again, in Cincinnati, was a godsend for Farrior and the Steelers. They needed to win to keep pace with New England, Baltimore and the New York Jets for supremacy in the AFC.
Farrior needed to wipe the slate clean.
To have the game end the way it did — with the Bengals driving for the winning touchdown and Farrior right in the middle of the action — is every player's dream.
Make no mistake, Farrior — a year older and certainly wiser — wasn't coming off the field on the Bengals' final drive. There was personal pride and a much-needed victory at stake.
Farrior played a rugged game, his best performance of the season. He led the Steelers with 10 tackles and sacked quarterback Carson Palmer for a 6-yard loss on a blitz when the wily veteran outsmarted the Bengals and wasn't blocked en route to the backfield.
"If they don't block me, I'm supposed to make the play," Farrior said. "I couldn't believe it. I showed (blitz) early. They called it out. I guess they called it wrong because nobody blocked me. We blitzed throughout this time. We were trying to disguise a lot of things."
Cincinnati found the matchup it wanted on the final drive when Palmer connected with running back Cedric Benson for 16 yards on third and 14.
Benson was Farrior's responsibility.
"I was mad about that one because that was the play I got beat on last year. I got beat on it again," Farrior said. "That was probably the only thing bad (about) that drive."
The ending, therefore, was pure bliss when cornerback Ike Taylor stripped the ball from Cincinnati's Jordan Shipley on fourth down at the same time linebacker James Harrison thudded into Shipley.
For Farrior, it meant redemption.
"Same type of game," Farrior said. "We knew they had some tendencies they were successful with last year. We practiced for that all week. We didn't stop them on fourth down last time and we lost. We stopped them this time.
John Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org