In 2004 when Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was just a rookie, he was thrust into action early in the season after then-starter Tommy Maddox suffered an injury. At that time, then-Steelers starting guard Alan Faneca was asked if it was exciting to have the young quarterback take over the offense.
“Exciting?” Faneca replied to the question “in an are-you-crazy kind of way,” according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “No, it’s not exciting. Do you want to go work with some little young kid who’s just out of college?”
While Faneca’s response was reasonable at the time, all things considered, Roethlisberger did ultimately help lead the Steelers to a 15-1 regular season record and ultimately to the AFC Championship game.
While Roethlisberger certainly had his struggles over the course of his first several years in the league with the Steelers when comes to being a leader, there’s no doubt that he’s now mastered the skill. On Thursday, Faneca, who is a Hall of Fame finalist this year, praised the leadership abilities that Roethlisberger now exhibits.
“He definitely has taken the organization and the team and put it on his shoulders,” said Faneca, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “That’s come a long way from when he first got into the NFL, just as we all evolve. He’s definitely grown into that guy. It’s great to see. He’s taken the team emotionally and physically by what he does on the field.”
Even though Faneca has been retired for several years now, it’s obvious that he still pays attention to what’s happening with the Steelers and especially Roethlisberger and his leadership abilities.
“I’ll see him pull guys over during the pregame and circle them up, a ‘Let’s go, get after it’ moment,” Faneca said. “It’s just nice to see. He seems more motivational, trying to get guys centered, calling out guys. Knowing when to poke and prod is a thing you learn along the way.”
Roethlisberger’s leadership abilities were on full display late in the 2015 season when he successfully challenged second-year wide receiver Martavis Bryant publicly prior to the start of the playoffs. Bryant answered his quarterback’s challenge with two solid playoff performances.
It’s good to hear Faneca praise Roethlisberger after all of these years as the Steelers quarterback certainly does deserve it. Saturday night, Faneca will find out whether or not he’ll be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2016 later this Sunday. Even if it doesn’t happen this year for Faneca, he’s sure to get in at some point and one would think that Roethlisberger will join him one day whenever his playing days are finally over.