Tim Benz: For Alan Faneca, honors should go beyond Steelers’ Hall

October 3, 2018

Former Steeler Alan Faneca during the Hall of Honor announcement Saturday, July 28, 2018 at Saint Vincent College.

Alan Faneca’s highlight rolled on a loop on the Heinz Field “Hall of Honor” monitor. It was mixed in with Rocky Bleier’s great catch in Super Bowl XIII and that famous clip of Buddy Dial scoring while getting startled by a fake cannon .

Also edited in were nostalgic shots aplenty of team architects Bill Nunn and Art Rooney Jr.

But my eyes were constantly drawn to the replay of Faneca’s block during Super Bowl XL in Detroit .

As he joked in the link above, “It’s the only block I’ve ever thrown.”

You can understand why people want to talk about it. Counter-34 Pike , also known as Willie Parker’s 75-yard touchdown run against the Seahawks, is one of the most famous plays in team history.

Faneca paved the way for Parker’s run into Super Bowl lore by pulling into linebacker Leroy Hill and getting in the way of a plunging Michael Boulware.

This weekend, the doors opened for him to enter the Steelers Hall of Honor. The next doors that should open for him ought to be in Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Frankly, they should’ve opened already. Faneca made the Pro Bowl nine times and was an All-Pro on eight occasions.

“You just block it out and let it be,” Faneca said when I asked him about his Hall of Fame chances Friday night. “You don’t start tracking it and looking around at the other guys in the room until you get there as a finalist.”

Faneca has been up for consideration three times. In each case, he has been a top-15 finalist.

“Year one, it was just fun,” Faneca said. “Year two? You’re like, ‘I don’t know.’ And then year three it’s like, ‘Come on. Let’s do this.’ So it gets a little more antsy as it goes on.”

Seattle’s Steve Hutchinson is on the ballot now, too. He was “the Faneca of the NFC” throughout the 2000′s. He deserves to get in as well. It’d be unlikely, but fitting, if they got in together. Yet, it’s very difficult for offensive linemen to get the nod with so few stats to measure their success, as opposed to the increasing proliferation of skill possession players who are making strong cases.

Two players at the same position going in at the same time really shouldn’t matter. If you deserve it, you deserve it.

But sometimes, matters like that come into play. So do intangibles such as not wanting to induct two players from the same team in the same year.

Troy Polamalu becomes eligible in 2020. So one has to wonder if his presence will impact Faneca if he isn’t elected in 2019. It’s a widely held opinion that the former Steelers safety will be a first-ballot selection .

You’ll get no argument from me there. Polamalu is deserving of that honor. But Faneca should be the next Steeler inducted. If I could only vote for one, I’d vote for Faneca. That’s not a popular opinion. Polamalu was more flashy and dynamic. But his position allowed for that.

Offensive guard doesn’t.

In my opinion, though, Faneca’s durability, consistency, and longevity win out over Polamalu. He didn’t have the extended injury stretches and late career struggles that Polamalu did. Nor did he have the learning curve that Polamalu did at the start of his career, earning team rookie of the year honors in 1998.

“When Alan came (to Pittsburgh) in 1998 as a first-round draft choice from LSU, you could just tell there was something about him,” said former teammate and Pro Hall of Famer Dermontti Dawson. “When Alan got in there with us, we didn’t miss a beat.

“No doubt that Alan Faneca is Hall of Fame worthy.”

Of course, we’re splitting hairs if we’re arguing about who is a better Steeler: Troy Polamalu or Alan Faneca. That’s like asking, what kind of car would you prefer? A Lamborghini or a Ferrari?

Both were the best in the league at their positions for an extended stretch with little argument besides a few other candidates. Faneca had Hutchinson. Polamalu had Ed Reed and Brian Dawkins.

Dawkins just got inducted. Polamalu, Hutchinson, and Reed absolutely should get in quickly as well.

It’s time to stop making Faneca wait.

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