Alan Faneca Offers Advice For Current Steelers’ O-Line

If there’s an offensive lineman you want to take advice from, it’s someone like Alan Faneca. One of the best guards in NFL history and now – finally – a Hall of Famer, Faneca was back in Pittsburgh this weekend along with the other Steelers celebrated for their Canton enshrinement. Faneca spoke with the media prior to Sunday’s win over Seattle and was asked what advice he’d give to this current group of Steelers’ linemen, a unit very much figuring things out as they go along.

“The best thing you can do is keep plugging along,” Faneca said according to a transcript provided by the team. “You have to keep churning and getting better. If you each individually keep working and striving to get better the collective unit becomes better. The offensive line is one of those units that are unique in the football ecosystem. We’re five guys, tight ends, running backs depending on the play, but we’re five guys trying to do one single thing and it takes all of us to do it. The more you do it, the better each individual becomes which results in the unit becoming better.”

Faneca is right about how an offensive line works (not that he needs my validation for it). An O-line is judged by the sum of its parts, not the individual. It’s a mentality of “one guy fails, we all fail” something the Steelers’ current group of five experienced early in the season. Too many times, one guy wouldn’t do his job on a run play and the call would go nowhere. It’s an individual failing but reflects on the group as a whole.

Faneca is someone who knows about a transformed offensive line, too. The Steelers’ line underwent similar but not quite as drastic changes in Faneca’s first two years with the Steelers. Here’s how the 1998, Week 1 offensive line looked.

1998 Steelers’ O-Line Starters (Week 1)

LT – Will Wolford
LG – Roger Duffy
C – Dirt Dawson
RG – Brendan Stai
RT – Justin Strzelzcyk

And here’s how it looked one year later.

1999 Steelers’ O-Line Starters (Week 1)

LT – Wayne Gandy
LG – Alan Faneca
C – Dirt Dawson
RG – Brendan Stai
RT – Chris Conrad

Three new starters from one year to the next. Context is important, the 98-99 lines weren’t nearly as green as the Steelers’ current group. Faneca didn’t start Week 1 of his rookie year but made 12 starts during the 1998 season while Conrad was in the second year with his team by 1999. Wayne Gandy was a veteran before signing with Pittsburgh for the ’99 season. Still, it was a stark change from the prior Week 1 and that group needed work and underwent more changes over the next several years. By 2000, there was a new right guard (Rich Tylski) and right tackle (Marvel Smith), with Dawson starting just nine games in his final NFL season.

All of that is to say Faneca is preaching patience and continual improvement with the Steelers’ current group. And they’ve done that. How much better they’ll get remains an open question but this group is growing in the run game and pass protection. With more reps come more chemistry and continuity making for a line that will end the year much better than how they started it.

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