Steelers Hall of Famer Alan Faneca Names the Best Players He Faced

Jerome Bettis vs Ravens

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images Jerome Bettis of the Pittsburgh Steelers is stopped by Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens as Ray Lewis #52 and Alan Faneca #66 look on during a game at M&T Bank Stadium in 2003.

On Thursday afternoon, former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive guard Alan Faneca did a Steelers Nation Unite Huddle in which he answered a wide range of questions about everything from his upbringing to what he’s doing in his post-playing days.

Of course, the Huddle comes hot on the heels of the news that Faneca has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Class of 2021), a long-awaited honor for the LSU product, who retired after the 2010 season following 13 years with the Steelers, New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals.

One of the best questions Faneca was asked during the proceedings concerned the defender who made him work the hardest—the one he “dreaded seeing” across from him.

He went on to name four different players, including two former Baltimore Ravens stars, beginning with Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis (Class of 2018).

“The names that come to mind are guys like Ray Lewis—so smart. The battle of wits and strength going on there when playing against Ray….

As for the toughest defensive tackle he faced: “Haloti Ngata was a load,” said Faneca. “He was so good and so strong. That guy gave me lots of fits.”

The Smartest Player Alan Faneca Played Against

As for the most cerebral player that Faneca had to contend with:

“Junior Seau hands-down had to be the smartest guy I’ve ever played against,” offered Faneca, referring to the late San Diego Chargers Hall of Famer (Class of 2015), who also went on to play for the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots over the course of a 20-year NFL career.

“He was a savant on the field, like the linebacker from [the movie] The Program [1993],” added Faneca. “He just knew things before he even saw it the first time. He didn’t even need to see it one time to know it was coming…. He knew it was there the first time and would line up in the hole and [you would think], ‘How does he even know we are doing this. We haven’t even run this play in like a month. It was just amazing.”

The Most Challenging Matchup for Faneca

As for the NFL player who gave him the hardest time overall, Faneca says it was Hall of Famer Warren Sapp (Class of 2013), who toiled for 13 years as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders.

“He just played the position completely different than any other defensive tackle in the game and if you didn’t change how you played offensive line against him, you were going to get beat on Sunday,” began Faneca. “So much about playing offensive line is repetition and routine and doing things day in and day out every time you snap the ball…. That’s what makes a good O-lineman really good.

“But you couldn’t do that against Warren. You would be doing the same things for 12 weeks and all through training camp and it’s Week 12 and you’ve got Warren Sapp. You had to go in on Tuesday and pull your scout team guy aside and say, ‘Look, I need these things from you, and I need you to go hard all week. This is not a normal week. I need you to make me better this week.’ You had to work on different things … so you could be successful on Sunday.

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