(EDITOR'S NOTE: To access the Alan Faneca interview click on the following attachment: Ep 32: HOFer Alan Faneca Joins the Shows | Spreaker)
Most people in Pittsburgh know how accomplished guard Alan Faneca was. Now most people outside of Pittsburgh do, too.
Faneca was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021 and hallelujah.
He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, eight-time All-Pro, first-team all-decade choice, Super Bowl winner and member of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ all-time team. Yet it took him six years to reach Canton, and don’t get me started.
He made it. That’s all that matters.
So now that he’s in, there’s something people in and out of Pittsburgh want to know: Who gave Alan Faneca the most trouble? Because it looked as if no one did. It didn’t matter where he played – Pittsburgh, the Jets, Arizona – he excelled, with Faneca one of only 12 guards in NFL history named first-team All-Pro six or more times.
Yet Faneca conceded there was one adversary who was more difficult to play than others, and he had no trouble naming him when he appeared on a recent “Eye Test for Two” podcast (fullpressradio.com).
Warren Sapp, come on down.
“Warren was great,” Faneca said “He changed and really played that defensive-tackle position different than anybody else. People like to ask you who’s the toughest guy you ever went against? Or the hardest guy? My first response … and I always give him credit because we had so many big battles ... is Warren.
“He played the defensive-tackle position. He got wide. He was fast. He was quick. You couldn’t just show up on Sunday and play against Warren.
"So much about offensive-line play is repetition, doing the same thing, in and out, in and out and getting really good at it. If you showed up on Sunday to do the same thing against Warren, you weren’t going to be successful. You had to start on Tuesday in practice.
“Whenever we played, I would always pull my scout-team guy aside and say, ‘Look, we got to work this week. I need you to do this and this and this and this, and I need you to go full out. I need to work and get ready to do different things. And I need you to get me ready.’ “
The practice paid off. In four career games vs. Faneca and the Steelers, Sapp was involved in 11 tackles, with one sack, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hits. That was it. He was also 1-3, not winning until he left Tampa Bay for Oakland.
Sapp was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, elected to the Hall in 2013. But he was a first-ballot trash talker, too, known for provoking opponents – especially when he held the upper hand. It was all part of the Sapp persona, yet it was one area where Faneca had no interest in engaging his opponent.
“He talked a lot,” he said, “but I think a lot of people think we’re down in our stances and just talking back and forth like they did in the movies. But we’re too tired. We’re catching breath and trying to figure out what we’re doing. We don’t have time for all that. For the most part we're in our hands in the dirt.
“But afterward, walking back to the huddle, that’s when all the fun starts. I didn’t partake in too much of it. But you always let somebody know when you got the best of them.”