We have suddenly been hearing from a lot of former members of the Pittsburgh Steelers over the course of the past week or so, and mostly for reasons that we would rather not have to hear from them about. Frankly, I’m surprised Hines Ward hasn’t weighed in yet, or at least not to my knowledge.
One player it’s hard to imagine it ever not being a good thing to hear from, however, is guard Alan Faneca, who spent most of his career in Pittsburgh before wrapping things up with a few years in New York and then Arizona.
Faneca retired eight years ago, meaning that he is in his fourth year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame. And this year, he is a finalist for Canton for the fourth straight time. Will this finally be the year that he gets in? After three years of waiting, he said, he has learned how to keep himself in check.
“You just keep [your emotions] at bay and just kind of enjoy the ride and go along with it”, he said of the emotional stress of waiting to find out. “You can’t let emotions get the best of you that day when you’re sitting in your hotel room waiting for the knock or no-knock”.
The Hall of Fame finalists are invited to Canton and spend the evening in a hotel, where they await news on whether or not they will be a part of the current Hall of Fame class. They receive a knock on the door with the director of the Hall informing them of the good news.
Part of the process of being voted into Hall of Fame is having one of the voters act as a presenter regarding your candidacy, making the pitch as to why you deserve to be a member of the most prestigious group of football players in history.
The generally regarded criteria is that a player has to have been regarded as among the best at his position in his era. It helps if you’ve won a lot of individual and team awards, and if you were able to change the game in a meaningful way, your case becomes even stronger.
“I think you’re talking about guys that set the tone, not only for their team, but within the league, changed the way the game has played to a certain extent, and guys that went in week in and week out, year in, year out and laid it on the line and showed up”, Faneca said of what he believes a Hall of Fame interior lineman looks like.
“I think I went out there and I laid it on the line and helped pave the way for a little bit, how I changed the game for interior line getting respect”, he added of his own career. “When I joined the league, people thought anybody could get in there and play guard. Now guard is kind of the premiere position with guys like me and [Steve Hutchinson] coming in and changing that mentality and that attitude”.
Hutchinson and Faneca were the two starting guards of the All-Decade team. They are both finalists this year, as is center Kevin Mawae. It’s been notoriously difficult for interior linemen to get in, and there is already a logjam, making things even more complicated.