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Friday, May 11, 2007

Faneca's follies

In the 14 years I've covered the Steelers, I've never seen a player open up and rip the organization as Alan Faneca did Friday on the opening day of minicamp.

Faneca was candid in his thoughts about the team - as he usually is. But this time, his candidness was pointed at the team's front office instead of himself or his teammates.

A pillar of honesty throughout his career with the Steelers, Faneca wore his emotions on his dripping wet with sweat sleave as he addressed reporters following the team's two-hour morning practice Friday, leaving nothing to the imagination.

Faneca's not happy that his days in Pittsburgh are numbered and he's not afraid to tell anyone about it.

The question is, where do the two sides go from here?

Faneca admitted that finding a way to play through his animosity is something he's going to struggle with all season long. But, being a consummate professional, he'll probably find a way. Once he steps between the white lines, it will be all business for Faneca.

But the team, and particularly new head coach Mike Tomlin, have to be concerned about how the rest of the players perceive Faneca's situation, especially coming on the heals of the team's release of Joey Porter in March.

Maybe the younger players will look at those two situations as a dose of reality. If guys such as Porter and Faneca can be shown the door - albeit in different ways - so can they.

But maybe Faneca's situation and Porter's release will damage that family feeling the Steelers have promoted within their locker room, especially in the past few years when players truly have cared about the guy next to them. They've not only been teammates on the field, they've been a family unit of 53 players off it as well.

And it doesn't take much to damage those kind of feelings. Heck, it wasn't all that long ago – 2000 training camp in fact – that linebackers Jason Gildon and Earl Holmes went after Richard Huntley with chairs following a minicamp practice.

It will be Tomlin's job in his first season to hold this ship together. But when members of the crew aren't particularly happy – especially key members – and everybody knows it, it can make for tough sailing.

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