When you’re right there in the moment it’s a lot more difficult to gain perspective that only comes over the course of time. I’m sure many of us watching the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2014 through 2017 were convincing ourselves that we were witnessing a Hall of Fame duo with Le’Veon Bell at running back and David DeCastro at guard.
We don’t know how their careers are going to unfold in their entirety yet. Perhaps they will end with Hall of Fame careers. But we do know that the Steelers have already had one such duo in the recent past—or at least soon will have had one—in Jerome Bettis and Alan Faneca, who is once again a finalist for the Hall of Fame and will eventually get in, even if it’s not this year.
Said Faneca of playing with Bettis, “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”.
The majority of their careers overlapped, from the time Faneca was drafted in 1998 through the 2005 season, after which Bettis retired as a Super Bowl champion. Faneca threw a game-changing block, though for Willie Parker, which he joked is like the only block he’s ever thrown because it’s the only one that gets talked about.
But to be an offensive lineman and to have a block that actually gets talked about is an achievement unto itself. There’s “the catch” and “the pass” and “the run”, even “the tackle” or “the sack” or “the interception”, but “the block”? It’s the most underappreciated aspect of the game.
“Alan was critical to my career because whenever we went into a situation where we had an offensive lineman move, Alan was always the guy to trap”, Bettis told the team’s website. “He would run the counters or the powers or the traps. He had such versatility as a guard that we could move him. With his athleticism and agility, we were able to move in and create the holes on the opposite side of the line”.
Many of those traps led to bit plays for Bettis, which would get him fired up. “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”, Faneca said. “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”.
Hopefully Steelers fans will relive those chills as Faneca joins Bettis and many other former Steelers on the Canton stage to celebrate his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Unless of course he chooses to give his speech in another location.