PITTSBURGH -- Try to give James Farrior an excuse. He won't take it.
The MVP of the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers was hardly his playmaking self last season. After posting career highs in sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries in 2004, Farrior went through the 2005 season without an interception, only one fumble recovery, two sacks and three forced fumbles.
Farrior, of course, had a knee injury that caused him to miss two games in 2005, and presumably hobbled him when he did play.
But he didn't bite on the presumption.
"I got nicked up a little bit last year," Farrior said, "but I don't know how much that played a part in my performance. I don't think it was a factor. You have to play with injuries and deal with it."
At the inside buck linebacker position, there's a fine line between dealing with injuries and being affected by injuries.
Former defensive coordinator Tim Lewis knew about that fine line. He worried about the buck position, as well as strong safety and nose tackle. "Those three positions, in this defense, just chew players up," Lewis said of the Steelers' 3-4. "It's a meat grinder."
So, any decline in the production of a 31-year-old buck linebacker is cause for concern, but Farrior just laughs it off.
"I feel good," he said. "I had a pretty good year; not as good as the year before but it was productive. I'm just looking forward to getting better every year."
In spite of missing the ninth and 10th games of the 2005 season with a sprained MCL, Farrior still made 113 tackles, only six fewer than he'd made in 2004. He also produced in the 2005 playoffs. Farrior intercepted a pass, made 2.5 sacks and broke up three passes in the run to the title. He also tied Ike Taylor for first on the team with 17 solo tackles. In the 2004 playoffs, Farrior made nine solo tackles and was blanked in the four playmaking categories.
Farrior was asked about Lewis's theory that the buck position chews up players and spits them out in short order.
"It's a tough position," he said. "It's really tough on the body, so each year, as you get older, your off-season becomes more critical. You have to get in better shape because your body's naturally slowing down."
To that end, Farrior began his conditioning this offseason earlier than normal. He started working out in March with his personal trainer, "who I usually don't start up with until the end of June," Farrior said. "I started pretty early this year."
Even though he's a newly crowned champion?
"You've just got to put it behind you because it's going to feel even better to get another one," he said.
Most players, though, would still be reveling in the first championship, at least until July.
"That's the trap," Farrior said. "That's the trap."
NOTES – The Steelers will resume their 75-minute coaching sessions on Tuesday. The team will hold three practices this week.