Though he wasn’t drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers out of the University of Virginia in 1997 and eventually found his way to Pittsburgh as a free agent that seemingly nobody but the black and gold wanted, Steelers’ Hall of Honor linebacker James Farrior believes to this day that he was always meant to be a Steeler.
Speaking with Stan Savran as part of the Steelers Time Machine segment on Steelers.com, Farrior addressed his time with the Steelers, thanking the Rooney family, Kevin Colbert and Bill Cowher for taking a chance on him after a disappointing four years in New York, and also expressed his gratitude for not only being part of one of the best defenses in franchise history, but also etching his name into franchise lore at the prestigious linebacker position.
Farrior, who played and started in 154 career games with the Steelers, finished his nine-year career in Pittsburgh with 1,085 tackles, 82 tackles for loss, 30.0 sacks, eight interceptions, 53 passes defensed, 12 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries and 47 quarterback hits, while also leading the Steelers’ defense to two Super Bowl championships in 2005 and 2008, earning Pro Bowl nods in 2004 and 2008, while also earning All-Pro honors both seasons, finishing runner-up to Baltimore Ravens’ Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed in the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award voting in 2005.
After coming over from the Jets in free agency ahead of the 2002 season, Farrior unlocked his full potential in the Steelers’ 3-4 defense under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, becoming a force in the middle of the Steelers’ defense, which led to great success in the Steel City for many years.
Defensively, no unit was arguably better in Steelers’ history than the ’08 defense, which eventually won a Super Bowl championship. That unit, which featured the likes of Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu, future Hall of Fame linebacker James Harrison, Farrior, Larry Foote, Ike Taylor, Ryan Clark, Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Lamar Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and more, allowed just 13.9 points per game and carried the Steelers to the Super Bowl, which still holds a special place in Farrior’s football life all these years later.
“I thought we were really good. I thought we had one of the best unit’s I’ve ever been a part of him my whole career, that 2008 year,” Farrior said to Savran, according to video via Steelers.com. “We were pretty dominant. I don’t if we were as dominant as some of those [Steelers] teams that we were compared to, but were pretty close. But you know, those guys set the standard for pretty much the whole NFL on how to be a good defense. We could never do what those guys could do back in those days, but we tried our best.”
Farrior is being a bit modest there. The Steelers’ defense in 2008 certainly tried its best, and they were elite, kind of like Farrior was throughout his Steelers career coming over from the Jets. All these years later, that three-year, $5.4 million deal in free agency to lure him away from New York remains the best move of Kevin Colbert’s career.
Though he might never wear a gold jacket and have his bust enshrined in Canton, Farrior holds a special place in Steelers’ lore, especially at the linebacker position. In the end, he was a perfect fit for the black and gold.
“…I think it was a perfect fit; I was meant to play for the Steelers — I like to say that nowadays,” Farrior said. “It was just an outstanding experience [playing in Pittsburgh]. The Rooney family…it starts at the top. It trickles down from the coaches, to the staff, the players, the equipment people, medical staff, everybody, the media — it’s just infectious.
“Being a part of this was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”