(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Former Steelers guard Alan Faneca, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021 last week, took part in the Steelers Nation Unite Huddle this past Thursday answering questions about his career, making the Hall of Fame and more.
One fan asked Faneca who was the most difficult player he played against in his 13-year career. The first three players Faneca mentioned in response were Hall of Fame linebackers Ray Lewis and Junior Seau and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
"The names that come to heart to mind first are the guys like Ray Lewis, so smart, the battle of wits and strength going on there when you're playing against Ray," Faneca said. "Junior Seau had to be hands down the smartest guy I've ever played against in the world. He was a savant on the field like the linebacker from 'The Program' if any of you guys remember that movie from back in the day. He just knew things before he even saw it the first time. He didn't even need to see it one time and know it was coming the second time. He knew it was there the first time and would line up in the hole, and you would be 'how does he know we are doing that? We haven't even run this play in like a month.' It was just amazing. Big guys with their hand down in the ground, Haloti Ngata was a load, man, he was so good and so strong. Big guy, gave me lots of fits."
Faneca said that Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp gave him the most challenges in his career.
"The guy that made me work the hardest was Warren Sapp," Faneca said. "He just played the position completely different than any other defensive tackle in the game. If you didn't change how you played offensive line against him, you were going to get beat on Sunday. So much about playing offensive line is repetition and routine and doing things day in and day out. Every time you snap the ball, you're doing the same thing, that's what makes a good O-lineman really good, and you couldn't do that against Warren.
"So, it's Week 12 and you've been doing the same thing for 12 weeks and all in training camp and everything. And it's Week 12 and you got Warren Sapp and you got to go in there on Tuesday and pull your scout team guy aside and say, 'Look, I need these things from you and I need you to go hard all week. This is not a normal week. I need you to make me better this week.' Cause you're going to have to work on different things and just get used to it so you can go out there and be successful on Sunday."
Faneca played against Sapp five times in his career, three times when Sapp was a Buccaneer and twice when he was a Raider. The Steelers were 3-2 in those games and Sapp recorded just one sack, two tackles for losses and two quarterback hits in those five games.