Former Steelers guard Alan Faneca is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021. The class will be revealed on Saturday during the NFL Honors show.
Throughout the week Steelers.com will be highlighting Faneca as his quest for a Gold Jacket closes in.
If there is anyone who knows what Alan Faneca could do during his playing days, what it was like to have his players face him on a regular basis, it's John Mitchell.
Mitchell, the Steelers Assistant Head Coach, was the team's defensive line coach from the moment Faneca was drafted by the Steelers through his entire career in black and gold. It was Mitchell's players who were tasked with going against Faneca on a daily basis, something that helped them because of one characteristic Faneca brought with him every time he took the field.
"The thing I liked about Alan is he was consistent every day," said Mitchell. "You knew what you were going to get, day in and day out. You weren't going to be surprised. He wasn't going to have a good day one, a bad day the next, a good week one week, a bad week the next. He was Mr. Consistency. When he stepped on the field, he blocked out everything. He wanted to be the best he could be.
"He made Aaron Smith a better football player. He made Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Chris Hoke, Travis Kirschke better football players because of the way he practiced.
"When guys come into this league, and they see a bell cow like Alan Faneca, the way he studied, the way he prepared, the way he practiced, it rubbed off on them whether they were on that side of the ball or not. They saw the consistency he brought day in and day out. That is what they want. That is what made Aaron Smith a damn good football player, working against Alan Faneca every day."
Take a look at photos of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist Alan Faneca
Faneca, a finalist for the Hall of Fame Class of 2021, 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 remarkable six-time All-Pro selection and was named to the Steelers All-Time Team in 2007 and the NFL 2000's All-Decade Team.
And one of the things that got him to where he was, according to Mitchell, was his intelligence and his incredible ability to pick things up quickly.
"Some guys can do that. Some guys can't," said Mitchell. "Alan Faneca learned from going out there and doing things. One thing I tell football players, especially young players, is good football players have good eyes. They see things. The good ones see it a lot quicker than the other guys, so they can react and do the things they need to do. A lot of football players, it takes years for them to see the things.
"For Alan Faneca, when he showed up on the field, it was like a photographic memory. He knew what to do, how to react, what was going to come off the things he saw. He was a smart player but didn't boost about it. He used it every day to make him a hell of a player."
In his day, he saw defensive linemen get beat by Faneca, something that was just inevitable with his combination of intelligence, quick hands and his footwork.
"When you see things a lot quicker than other people, especially when you are an offensive lineman, and see things quicker than a defensive lineman, you are going to get on them," said Mitchell. "He was so smart, so quick, used his hands, took good angles. He took all of the things you can take, and he listened to his coach."
For the past five years, Mitchell thought Faneca should have been elected to the Hall of Fame.
This year, in his sixth season as a finalist, he can't imagine him not getting his just due.
"When you are as consistent as he was in his career, and did the things he did, the way he did them, he should be in the Hall of Fame," said Mitchell. "He didn't give up sacks, he opened holes, he was a consistent player. As a coach, if you ask me one thing I want more than anything else, I want a player to be consistent. Because if he is consistent, he is going to get better. He got better every year. He never rested on his laurels. His body of work was consistent. Every year he had a good year."