Minus Farrior, The Show Must Go On

Larry Foote not only has to hold off Stevenson Sylvester, but rookie Sean Spence is also making a run at replacing James Farrior at the buck linebacker position. Mike Prisuta has the details.

Keith Butler still doesn't feel any better about James Farrior's absence, but after three weeks of OTAs the Steelers' linebackers coach has a little better feel for how life without ‘Potsie' might play out.

"Hopefully, we'll be as good a defense as we were last year," Butler said following a sun-splashed workout at Heinz Field. "I do feel good about that."

The details still have to be sorted out.

It'll be Larry Foote initially and mostly taking Farrior's place.

But Foote might yet be complemented.

The Steelers want to do what they can to ensure that Foote, who is heading into his 11th NFL campaign, will be fresh at season's end. To get Foote there they may ask one of their young linebackers to do for Foote what Foote did for Farrior last season.

Foote estimated he averaged about 20 or 30 snaps a game in Farrior's place in 2011.

Third-year pro Stevenson Sylvester may be called upon as Foote's caddy in 2012, should Sylvester prove worthy of such a promotion.

But so, too, might rookie Sean Spence.

Spence, a third-round pick from Miami, Fla., was initially penciled in behind Lawrence Timmons. But after Spence flashed his smarts and what those can mean on the field during OTAs, he's now also being considered as an alternative to Foote at the "buck" LB spot.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is among those Spence has impressed.

"He's done everything any first-year player could do in coaching sessions without pads," LeBeau said.

As for Foote doing the bulk of the heavy lifting that replacing Farrior figures to demand, "I don't have any concerns about Larry playing the ‘Buck,'" LeBeau added.

Neither does Larry.

"I wish we could have gone out together," Foote said. "I (still) have to do my job.

"I can handle it."

That goes for getting running backs on the ground, an aspect of Farrior's game that slipped noticeably from the coaching staff's perspective last season.

And it goes for replacing the monster presence Farrior always brought to the table.

"One of the greatest stories Dick LeBeau tells about Farrior is from the Indianapolis (playoff) game (in 2005)," Foote offered. "After the fumble with (Jerome) Bettis everybody was shook up and (Farrior) grabbed Dick LeBeau and said, ‘What's the call?' That's what this team needs."

Not just anyone can step into such a role. But Foote is convinced he has the street cred to pick up where Farrior left off.

"I have the respect around here," he said. "I've been here for 10 years. That alone, guys that know about this game know that demands respect, especially the level I've been playing at. I've been starting in this league a long time. I will earn their respect. They'll listen."

Foote knows he'll need more than his standard bravado to pull it off but he isn't backing off. As much as he misses Farrior, he's embracing the task of trying to replace him.

"I'm fired up," Foote confirmed. "I‘ve been having a little itchy ear this offseason, hearing people say stuff about me, ‘can he do it?'

"I'm the big question mark. It should be that way when you gotta fill a guy's shoes like Farrior. But I can hold my own with anybody."

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