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Old 11-25-2006, 08:42 AM   #1
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Default Linebacker Farrior a high-impact defender

By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, November 25, 2006


In case you haven't noticed, Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior has revved up his game recently.
Defensively, outside linebacker Joey Porter leads the team in colorful quotes (to go along with five sacks, second on the team behind fellow outside linebacker Clark Haggans' 5 1/2). Safety Troy Polamalu is all over the field; he also has that cool long-hair look going.

Farrior lacks Porter's bombastic personality, or Polamalu's flair. But he's a defensive cornerstone.

Farrior had a dream game in the Steelers' 24-20 win at Cleveland last week. He had 12 tackles (one sack) and two quarterback hurries. It was the third straight game Farrior led the Steelers in tackles, and his third straight double-digit tackle game.

The Steelers always receive a strong effort from their linebackers, but none stronger than Farrior. If Porter is the heart, Farrior is the soul of the unit.

"I've been doing some things well, but there's a lot more things I can improve on to help this team win," Farrior said.

Let's try this again, shall we? Farrior finished second on the team in tackles last season with 113 despite missing two games with a knee injury. He also led the Steelers in tackles in 2004 (119) and 2003 (127). In 2001 with the New York Jets, he compiled 175 tackles. With six games remaining this season, Farrior leads the Steelers with 95 tackles and is easily on pace to surpass last year's total.

Farrior has been a ferocious hitter and relentless in his pursuit of ball carriers. He always seems to be in good position to make a play.

"I don't think it's bad," said Farrior, a 10-year veteran who's tied for the team lead with five tackles for losses and also has five passes defended, four quarterback hurries, three sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. "I wouldn't say it's good or great, but I'm doing my job."

Farrior said it's impossible to separate his individual accomplishments from the Steelers' 4-6 record.

"Last week I had a missed tackle. And I had a mental error. When you're not winning, the margin for error is less and less," Farrior said. "If we were in a different situation, I feel like I'd be having a good season."

Now, that's more like it.

Farrior isn't afraid to toot his own horn. But playing for the Steelers -- who enter Sunday's game against AFC North rival Baltimore with their dwindling playoff hopes on the line -- has taught him there's a time and place for everything.

Now is neither the time nor place for individual bravado. Winning a Super Bowl can change your perspective on a whole lot of things, and that includes placing team goals ahead of personal ones.

"I really feel fortunate to be in this situation," Farrior said. "When I first got here, I didn't know what to expect with this team.

"It's been a lot more than I expected. Coming from the Jets, it's a whole different animal. This team is a lot closer. I didn't really get that feeling when I was with the other team."

Unfortunately, the Steelers' up-and-down play in 2006 has created a sinking feeling of opportunity lost. But Farrior views the Ravens game as a chance for the Steelers to make amends and salvage what's left of their season.

If not now, when? If not the Ravens, who?

"It's got all the tools to be a great game," Farrior said of Sunday's 1 p.m. kickoff at M&T Bank Stadium. "It's already a division rivalry -- they're leading the division. It's an away game. It's got everything you want. It's got all the intangibles."

Farrior's job just got harder because of Baltimore quarterback Steve McNair, who has provided his new team with leadership and late-game heroics.

"He makes a world of difference for the whole team," Farrior said. "It looks like they play with a lot more confidence now on the offensive side and the defensive side. Everybody knows he's going to be calm and relaxed if they're down. He's made some comeback drives at the end of games to win for them. That really sets their team apart from what they were in the past."

Simply put, the Steelers need Farrior to have another one of those high-impact games he's been turning in more often than not.
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