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Cowher on Faneca: 'He led the way'

It's hard to measure statistics for an offensive lineman, but there is one for former Steelers guard Alan Faneca that clearly stands out.

Six time first-team All-Pro selection. Not once, not twice, but six times.

It's a number you can't ignore. It's a number Hall of Fame voters can't ignore.

Check out the greatest photos of Pittsburgh Steelers guard Alan Faneca.

Faneca is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017, and the do-it-all guard has every right to be alongside the greatest ever to play the game.

"As a left guard one of the staple running plays we had with him was pulling right and he paved the way for a lot of the runs Jerome Bettis had, especially late in games," said Bill Cowher, one of his former coaches. "We knew if we ran left we ran behind him, if we ran right we pulled him. We always found a way to make sure he was at the point of attack when we ran a running play."

Faneca was the Steelers first-round draft pick in 1998 and played 10 seasons for the black and gold, and 13 overall in the NFL. He was a member of the Super Bowl XL Championship team, and was selected to nine Pro Bowls. Faneca was a six-time All-Pro selection and was named to the Steelers All-Time Team in 2007 and the NFL 2000's All-Decade Team. In his 13 seasons, which included playing for the New Yor Jets (2008-09) and Arizona Cardinals (2010), he missed only one regular season game in 206 career appearances. Faneca helped block for teams that finished among the NFL's top-10 in rushing 11 times, and helped block for nine 1,000-yard rushers and five 3,000-yard passers.

"He was an integral part of the run game," said Cowher. "The guard position, he almost redefined it. He was a guy who could block at the point of attack, but also block in space. We all remember the big run Willie Parker had in Super Bowl XL. It was really Alan at that point of attack. That was what we were able to do with a guy like him. He was a staple, he was a constant. He set the tone. He was a quiet leader on our football team. Without a doubt he was the heart and soul of the offensive line."

Hall of Fame voters will gather in Houston on Feb. 4, the day before Super Bowl LI, to select the Class of 2017. A few years ago Faneca was in Canton to see teammate Jerome Bettis enshrined as a member of the Class of 2015 and Cowher is hoping this year it will be Faneca's turn.

"He is one of those guys who got recognized for all of the right things he did," said Cowher. "His ability to pass protect; his ability to play left tackle if we needed him to do that; and his ability to block in space. It was very evident he was a guy who week in and week out was there. He played at a very high level on a consistent basis.

"When you talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers during the time he was there, arguably we had the best running game in the National Football League. To be able to do that was special. We ran left behind him or we ran right and he was pulling. He was the guy who led the way for a lot of really good running backs, including one that is in the Hall of Fame right now who would tell you a big part of why he is there is Alan Faneca."

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