Notebook: Faneca following legend's footsteps

As a rookie, Alan Faneca was OK on the field and terribly shy off it. But the Steelers' star guard has grown exponentially in both aspects and was honored for it yesterday.

PITTSBURGH – Early in the 2004 season, Alan Faneca made a remark about rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that was misconstrued and wickedly spun by reporters.

Faneca was not upset at the media.

Earlier this season, the offensive line played poorly and the team suffered. Faneca was the point man for the topic, and he was not upset at the media.

After Sunday's win over the Chicago Bears, in which the offensive line dominated play, Faneca was asked if it felt good to again play like "the Alan Faneca of old?"

"What's the Alan Faneca of new?" he asked with a big smile. Obviously, he was not upset at the media.

For his good nature in difficult situations, Faneca yesterday was named winner of The Chief Award, which is given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of cooperation with the media that was established by Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney.

"It's part of the game," Faneca said. "If you're going to talk when you're feeling good and winning, you're going to need to talk when things are rough and talk about things you don't really want to talk about when things aren't going well."

Faneca becomes the first person to win both the Joe Greene Great Performance Award and The Chief Award. He was the team's Rookie of the Year in 1998, back when he was almost too shy to talk to reporters.

"I was shy?" he said. "I was quiet. I'm a firm believer in young guys following the older guys."

Actually, Faneca didn't come to Pittsburgh with the idea of learning from the veterans, but he couldn't help but learn from one.

"I always wanted to be myself," he said. "But when I got here, I saw how Dermontti Dawson carried himself, played the game and everything he brought. I really wanted to be what he was to the team and to try to follow that."

With his play on the field and his demeanor off it, Faneca has indeed honored Dawson with the highest form of flattery. DAZZLING RUN

The play that received the loudest cheer in film review this week was the 12-yard run by Dan Kreider. It was only the third carry this season for the Steelers' fullback, and by far his longest.

"He had a run, but that's not what he gets paid to do," said tailback Jerome Bettis. "If you get 12 out of him, that's big. But what he does, he's one of the best in the game at it, and I don't think he gets enough credit for it."

Kreider's game is blocking, and one Steelers front-office official gave him credit. He said Sunday's game may have been the best of Kreider's six-year career.

"He was killing people," the source said. "Maybe playing in the mud had something to do with it, but he was in a zone."

Kreider, though, was unimpressed.

"We won, so I guess I played alright," he said. I

s he a mudder of a fullback?

"I think it had to do with the way they played their defense," Kreider said. "A lot of their linebackers just came downhill. They were looking to fill a gap and in some cases it made your job a little easier, as far as when you fill a gap that guy's going to fill a gap and meet you. Some defenses you play, the down linemen are two-gapping and then that linebacker is just waiting to see where the back hits it and then he fills, so it was a little bit different. I don't know. You just try and keep playing hard and every week get better." TOWNSEND RETURNS

Deshea Townsend returned to practice yesterday and said he will play Sunday at Minnesota. The Steelers' starting cornerback left last Sunday's game after hitting Bears quarterback Kyle Orton. Townsend nearly collapsed before reaching the sideline and was diagnosed with a neck strain.

"I feel good, much better than I did Monday," he said. "It was something I never felt before. It's an injury that you feel internally. It wasn't like a pulled muscle or something like that, but when you feel something going down your back it's really something you never experienced; very scary."

Townsend has been inundated with get-well messages, and he knows why.

"It's that Mississippi hospitality I guess I have," he said.

Missing all of Thursday's practice were LT Marvel Smith (doubtful/ankle), LB Andre Frazier (doubtful/hamstring) and TE Jerame Tuman (probable/knee), who was a new addition to the injury list.

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