That's right, the age-conscious Steelers, who couldn't get in the same ballpark with 31-year-old Alan Faneca and won't even talk to 30-year-old Marvel Smith, have given a 5-year contract to James Farrior. Their reasons are sound. Farrior is always in shape, hasn't missed a game since November 2005, still has his speed, and will mentor 21-year-old phenom Lawrence Timmons. But the biggest reason might've been the one written all over Keyaron Fox's face.
Two weeks ago, the newcomer Fox admitted he was having trouble understanding his job – behind Farrior – as the playcaller, the buck linebacker, in Dick LeBeau's defense. "I've heard you never really fully get it," Fox said. When told Farrior had admitted years later that he had no idea what he was doing his first year with the Steelers, the relief that came over Fox's face made clear just how complex LeBeau's defense is.
"Even though I've been here seven years, I'm still learning," Farrior said Thursday. "There are always nuances to this defense you never knew. When you've been in it this long, you have a great understanding of it, but there's always something that's out there that you really didn't know."
He can run like a young man, with the wisdom of an old man. That's why the Steelers paid James Farrior.
News Flash: Steelers are finished talking contracts.
According to sources, these are the reasons the Steelers won't be looking to extend the contracts of the remaining players entering the final years of contracts:
· Marvel Smith – History of neck and back problems make him too risky.
· Chris Kemoeatu – With two career starts, doesn't deserve what his agent would seek.
· Nate Washington – Make him earn his payday, and if he doesn't want to talk next March, there's Limas Sweed.
· Bryant McFadden – Can't beat out Deshea Townsend, so why pay him more than Townsend?
· Max Starks – Mathematically implausible to re-do his $7 million salary this year.
· Trai Essex – Another who needs at least one decent season first.
News Flash: Steelers have deepest WR corps in team history.
That was the headline one suburban paper put over an Associated Press story yesterday. It probably came from this line in the lead paragraph about Hines Ward: "… the group he takes the field with in 2008 might be one of the best."
Now, it didn't exactly say "best in team history," but the tone of the story was that optimistic. Micah Rucker, an undrafted free agent, seconded the optimism by telling his hometown paper yesterday that the Steelers "may keep anywhere from six to seven" wide receivers.
All I can say is whoa, whoa, whoa. In fact, the WR pool is fairly shallow. The guys working for the fifth spot – Dallas Baker and Willie Reid – have shown little, and Eddie Drummond is only a kick returner. Limas Sweed is only No. 4 because as the second-round pick he's a lock to make the roster. But he's dropped so many passes and shown such inexperience that he's likely to be inactive most, if not all, games. In fact, the Steelers are counting on the inconsistent Nate Washington quite a bit as the No. 3. Don't be surprised if this historic unit is bolstered by a veteran off the waiver wire in the coming weeks.