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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Faneca situation looms

In just a few short days we’ll finally know a little more about what the future holds not only for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they open their first mandatory training camp with their rookie draft picks, but also star guard Alan Faneca as well.

While new head coach Mike Tomlin was quick to dump linebacker Joey Porter rather than have Porter serve as a distraction because of a contract holdout, the team kept Faneca, who was in the same exact situation as Porter.

Both were heading into the final season of their contract with the Steelers and both were due a $1 million roster bonus at the beginning of March.

But the Steelers gave Faneca his roster bonus, but released Porter rather than pay his bonus only to have him skip mini-camp and/or training camp.

Could it be the Steelers know something about Faneca that others don’t?

A big deal was made when Faneca skipped the team’s voluntary coaching sessions and non-mandatory mini-camp, even though Faneca wasn’t the only player – nor only star – to miss the practices.

The message boards and radio talk shows were rife with fans saying to trade him.

Of course many of these same people don’t stay an extra minute past quitting time at their jobs. But hey, this is the Steelers we’re talking about here.

But while the fans have been up in arms about Faneca’s supposed sins, the Steelers have been silent about the whole thing. There really have been no shots across the bow or any read-between-the-lines statements from the team about their star guard’s status.

That could change this weekend if Faneca skips the team’s mandatory mini-camp.

But the guess here is that Faneca will show up for the mini-camp. Despite the fact he’s miffed about the team’s initial contract offer, it would serve no purpose for Faneca to skip a three-day, non-contact camp other than to tick off Tomlin.

The opening of training camp might be another matter. But for now, look for Faneca to avoid a nasty confrontation. He hasn’t missed anything to this point that would cause a problem and he’s not a problem-causing kind of guy.

That’s one reason why the Steelers chose to give Faneca his roster bonus while dumping Porter.

Faneca, who unlike Porter isn’t clearly on the downside of his career just yet, has to know he can play out his current contract, bank $4.3 million this season and still cash in at the end of the season. He’s never had a major injury. And even a serious knee injury to wouldn’t be devastating to his future earnings.

That likely had something to do with the decision as well.

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