Grimm: 'He had to be the top'

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.

Russ Grimm couldn't help but laugh when he recalled watching Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist Alan Faneca sitting in the offensive line meeting room at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

Grimm, the Hall of Fame guard with the Washington Redskins and Steelers offensive line coach from 2001-06, would be showing film, going over plays and game plans, and talking up a storm, all while Faneca sat and just listened, barely picking up his pen to take down notes. And it wasn't out of disrespect, not by a longshot.

"You sit in the meeting room and he had his feet up on the desk," recalled Grimm. "When I first got there and I was coaching him, I was thinking is this guy writing anything down. Then he would flip over his book and make a little note. Then, whenever they took a break and left the room, I would look at his notebook. He had all of the little things in there.

"We would go out to practice, and say we had a trick play in or some different type of thing, he would stand there and turn around and watch and see what all the ball carriers were doing, when the receivers were coming around. He wanted to know everything about the play, as far as when he could throw the block in the open field, how far the separation between him and the running back, even the receiver.

"He was one of the smartest, most athletic, easiest guys to coach I ever worked with. I have had some smart guys that played for me. He had to be at the top. He would always set the example by how he played. The guys I had when I was there, I didn't have to worry about it because I knew Alan would take care of the preparation and stuff like that. He was a versatile player, so he gave you a lot of options. His footwork was unbelievable. He was very easy to coach."

Take a look at photos of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist Alan Faneca

It's those things and more that has Grimm shaking his head that Faneca isn't already in the Hall of Fame, and him knowing the only right thing is for him to be a member of the Class of 2021.

"I definitely think he already should have been in there," said Grimm. "He should have been in already. The tough thing with offensive linemen is they don't have statistics like other positions. But what he did, he could pull and locate people on the run. He was good in the open field. For a 315-pounder, he could run. As far as pulling, it gave you some options. Instead of just everything like zone stuff, you could gap block, down block, pull a guard, pull both guards. He was a versatile player so he gave you a lot of options on what you could do."

One of the many things Faneca was known for was his pulling ability from the guard spot. It was something he mastered, something that benefited the Steelers in many ways.

"He had a way of pulling, of doing it the way nobody else could do it," said Grimm. "His footwork was unbelievable. He could drop step. He could cross over. He knew where to put his feet. As a lineman that is the biggest thing. I tell people that all of the time. You can go and lift whatever you want to lift. But if you don't have a good base and foundation, you are going to be off balance and it's not going to work.

"He had great footwork. I think it was natural. He worked on it, yes, but it was natural. A guy with good feet, if he works on it, he will have great feet. A guy with average feet, if he works on it, he will end up with good feet. If you have to spend the time on it, it's nothing but motor skills from the brain to the feet. The more you do it, the faster that message travels. And his traveled pretty fast."

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