Legends Series: Alan Faneca
Alan Faneca knows what family means. As a father of three, he and his wife Julie always put family first in everything they do in life.
Maybe that is part of the reason Faneca loved playing for the Steelers so much, because of that family atmosphere that was so prevalent during his playing days, and still is today.
"It's like playing for your family and with your brothers," said Faneca. "When I left, a lot of people always wanted to know what the secrets are, what's going on in Pittsburgh because everybody wants to recreate it. The consistency, the Super Bowl trophies. It's really hard to put into words, but it's a brotherhood, it's a family, it's the guys in the organization and the locker room. We're all so similar but we all come from different areas.
"People would look at me and give me this really weird look and have no idea what I was talking about. So then I tried to come up with an analogy for them. So I said you know Joey Porter, Joey and I are best friends. And they would look at me like I was crazy and I said we're not the same. But were close, we are friends, everybody in the locker room is like that. That is how you make it through all the rough patches and that's how a Pittsburgh Steelers team that maybe, technically on paper should have 6 or 7 wins, gets 8, 9 or 10 wins. Because a lot of teams in the NFL are lacking that, and those things and those characteristics that carry over and transfer on the field. Sometimes people would understand me, but most of the times they still didn't, and that's their loss."
Faneca spent time in Pittsburgh during the team's OTAs, minicamp and training camp during 2016, and said that feeling still exists just like it did when he played.
"I think it goes to the consistency, so many years with Coach Chuck Noll, so many years with Coach (Bill) Cowher, so many years with Coach (Mike) Tomlin. That consistency of the coaching and the message being transferred over and on is stuck here."
Faneca also weighed in on a variety of other topics in this exclusive interview:
What was the best memory from your playing career with the Steelers?"For*me it's winning the Super Bowl so I almost discount that when I get asked that question because it's the easy answer. One of my most surreal moments that sticks out in my career that's not even that special moment probably, if you take my whole career into play. That first AFC Championship game, in the tunnel coming out before, just the chills of Steelers Nation, of what we were playing for, everything. It was just a surreal moment for me." What was special about that Super Bowl XL that you were able to accomplish what you did? *"We were all playing for each other. That's one thing that sticks out in my mind when I think about that team. We were out there leaning on each other, playing for each other. Working harder and really just trusting each other. That's the only way we were able to go on that late run and carry that momentum and really turn our season around and start to play some really good football."
What was the atmosphere in that locker room like?"Just a great group of guys. Playing around but serious, ready to work, ready to get the job done. But just a great group of guys."When I think about Super Bowl XL one of the things I think about is that Willie Parker touchdown run. I'm sure that's fresh in your memory constantly because of the block you made. Can you talk about that play?"It's the only block I've ever thrown. Ha ha. It's definitely the one that comes up first, which is awesome, it's great. We were setting up that play going into the game and we had a little small package set up for that play. It gave us the look we were going to check out of the pass and run that run. We were able to get enough yards on the passes to keep the package alive and they said we're coming back to it at the half. And sure enough, they overplay it like we were wanting them to, we check to it and the rest is history."You joke about that being your only block. You've had some incredible blocks. Some of them being for a Hall of Fame running back in Jerome Bettis. What was it like blocking for a guy like him and how much pride do you take in it?"I loved it. He was another offensive lineman. We fed off of each other. He played physically. He loved blocking. I loved being with him. I was with him so much I could almost get a feel for where he was going to run the ball, where he liked it. He would hit the creases in the defenses. Just had that connection with him from playing with him for so long."What was the feeling like when you'd see him break one of his big runs, you'd see the dance he did? Did that get the offensive line pumped up too?"That got everybody. You knew when he got up and did his thing and was serious and pounded on his chest it was go time. Give him the ball and let him take over the game and we'll take it from there. I'm getting chills right now just thinking about that."
Who had the biggest impact on your career?"So many people. So many coaches taking the time to teach me things. Players, leaning on everybody. Parents. I don't think I could do it justice to put it on one person but there's so many people behind the scenes that help you along the way."Last year, Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist, first year eligible, what was that honor like to make it that far your first time eligible?"It was amazing. It was fun to enjoy the process and to be a part of the conversation. Definitely intriguing, going through the process as you make the finalists and going to the Super Bowl and going to the functions and being told to get back to your room for a knock on your door. It was definitely interesting, a little nerve-wracking. But it was definitely fun. It's very unique."Exciting process to go through, one everybody wants to be in, but does it help having gone through it now, to know what to expect, to know your expectations?"Definitely. I was asking a lot of questions and leaning on guys that had been there before for a couple years, what to expect, how's it going. I know my wife was asking a lot of questions, so Julie was well informed and leaning on them as well. You make it to one level, then the next level. It's all nice and we'll just wait and see." Last spring and the summer you had a chance to experience OTA's, minicamp, training camp and in season in a different aspect by coming in working with the coaching staff, working with Mike Munchak. What was that experience like for you?"It was fun, it was definitely interesting to be back in the building and be around the team and to be back around football. I helped out a little bit with a high school football team last year, which kind of started my itch to come and check things out. But it's definitely fun to be around the Steelers, the team and just around football again. It was fun."Did you do some learning while you were taking part in it?"I definitely did, to see how Coach Munchak works and the things that he does and that he brings, everybody does things differently. I've talked a little bit about it with some of the guys, asked if the offense is similar to when I was here. You know everyone's doing the same thing, they just have different numbers and names and different ways of getting there. So you just have to learn everybody's different ways and piece it together for you."Was it fun too, to teach somebody your tricks of the trade to some of the guys playing now and give them some of your insight?"It was. It's definitely interesting to step back and see things and try to be able to express it. For me, I don't even think of it, but to step back and teach somebody it's a neat feeling to have that information transferred over and to see them do it on the field makes you feel really good."* *