(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
In 2004, Alan Faneca was 27 years old and was in his seventh season with the Steelers, so when rookie Ben Roethlisberger was named the starting quarterback after Tommy Maddox suffered an injury against the Ravens in their Week 2 contest, the grizzly veteran wasn't too happy about it.
A reporter asked Faneca if it would be exciting to have the new guy start under center. And Faneca responded, "No, because who would want to go to work with a little, young kid who’s just out of college?"
Faneca was asked about his comment on Roethlisberger from 17 years ago during his Pro Football Hall of Fame press conference on Thursday.
"Ben and I had a little short discussion about that moment when I was doing some coaching during summer camps a couple years back," Faneca said. "He sees where I was coming from at the time. When I said those words, they were just really out of passion for the team and not really Ben himself or a slight against him, it was just about where we as a team were trying to get. How many teams lose their starting quarterback and it's an exciting moment? (That's) where I was coming from. It's definitely great to see him continuing on and playing and doing it at a high level, and leading. Being the leader he's become is pretty special to watch."
It didn't take long for Roethlisberger to earn Faneca's respect, however, as he led the Steelers to 13 consecutive wins and a 15-1 regular-season record in 2004. The following year, Roethlisberger and Faneca earned rings together, as the Steelers defeated the Seahawks, 21-10, in Super Bowl XL.
Faneca said there were no hard feelings between him and Roethlisberger over the interaction from 2004.
"He understood where I was coming from," Faneca said. "We really didn't dive too deep into it. I forgot the situation we were talking about, but it was basically how he was the older guy in the group now and he's the guy who's trying to pull some young guys along and get them up to his level. And he understood. He just said, 'I realize where you were coming from, now that I'm where you were.'"
The Steelers will have four new starters on their offensive line in 2021, and three of the projected starters are 24 or younger. Roethlisberger is 39 years old and is heading into his 18th season, so the roles are reversed now.