Updated: Feb 18, 2021
(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
The Hall of Fame selection committee met virtually today to vote on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021. The results will be revealed on Feb. 6 at the NFL Honors show the night before Super Bowl LV.
Former Steelers guard Alan Faneca is one of the 15 finalists for this year's class. It's the sixth time that Faneca has been a finalist. It should be Faneca's turn to get into the PFHOF. Hall of Fame voters usually select just one offensive lineman per class. Kevin Mawae and Steve Hutchinson got in the past two years.
Faneca is a nine-time Pro Bowler (2001-2009) and was named first-team All-Pro six times in his career (2001, 2002, 2004-2007). Faneca was named second-team All-Pro in 2003 because he moved from left guard to left tackle for nine games because of injuries to the Steelers’ tackles. If it wasn't for that, he would have been named first-team All-Pro in seven consecutive seasons. Faneca was also selected as second-team All-Pro in 2008, which was his first season with the Jets after the Steelers didn't re-sign him due to a disagreement in negotiations.
Faneca was also named to the Steelers All-Time Team and the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. Faneca missed just two games in his 13-year career, one because of an injury in his second season in 1999 in Week 4 against the Jaguars. And the other coming in 2001 when Bill Cowher rested some starters in a meaningless Week 17 contest against the Browns due to having the No. 1 seed sealed already. He started 201 of 206 regular-season games and all 14 postseason games. He was 7-4 with the Steelers in the playoffs and was a part of the Steelers' 2005 team that won the Super Bowl. In Super Bowl XL, Faneca pulled to the right and delivered a key block on a counter play that sprung running back Willie Parker free for a 75-yard touchdown, which is still the record for the longest rushing touchdown in Super Bowl history. The Steelers went on to defeat the Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL to capture their fifth Lombardi Trophy.
Faneca started all 48 regular-season games with the Jets and Cardinals in the three seasons he played after he left the Steelers as a free agent following the 2007 season. Faneca played in three playoff games with the Jets in 2009, and went 2-1, with the loss coming against the Colts in the AFC Championship Game.
Selector Ed Bouchette of The Athletic presented on behalf of Faneca as the Modern-Era Player Finalist.
Former longtime Steelers scout Bill Nunn is a finalist as a contributor for the PFHOF Class of 2021. Nunn was a sportswriter and editor for the Pittsburgh Courier, one of the largest Black newspapers in the United States, and he selected the Black College All-American Team every year since 1950. The Steelers were aware of Nunn's coverage of players who went to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and at the time, HBCU players were traditionally under-represented in the league. The Steelers were known as perennial losers in the 1960s and were looking for a winning edge, so they asked Nunn to join the team's scouting department. Nunn accepted a part-time position with the Steelers in 1967 and two years later he was hired full-time when Chuck Noll became the team's head coach.
Nunn would travel all over the South every fall to compile information on players for his All-American team, along with that he built close relationships with coaches and athletic directors at HBCUs. The Steelers had a huge advantage over other teams with having Nunn.
Without Nunn, the Steelers don’t find diamonds in the rough like John Stallworth (Alabama A&M), Mel Blount (Southern), L.C. Greenwood (Arkansas-Pine Bluff), Ernie Holmes (Texas Southern), Dwight White (East Texas State) and Donnie Shell (South Carolina State), all of who played at HBCUs. Stallworth, Blount and Shell are in the Pro Football Hal of Fame. Also without Nunn, the Steelers don't win four Super Bowls in six years in the 1970s. His fingerprints were all over the 1970s dynasty.
Teams are fortunate enough if they select one player in a draft class who goes on to have a Hall of Fame career. The Steelers struck gold in 1974, as they would have five future Hall of Famers from their rookie class in Lynn Swann (first round), Jack Lambert (second round), John Stallworth (fourth round), Mike Webster (fifth round) and Shell, who went undrafted. It’s by far the greatest rookie class in the history of the NFL. It’s a feat that won’t happen again. There’s six Hall of Fame members across the league from the 1974 rookie class, five of them are Steelers and the other member is Dave Casper, who was selected by the Raiders in the second round. That statistic in itself just shows how far in advance the Steelers’ scouting department was compared to the rest of the league at the time, and Nunn had a lot to do with that.
In 2014, the Pro Football Hall of Fame decided to add contributor as a category for nomination to make the Hall of Fame in an effort to get more deserving contributor candidates in. Since then, only one person from a scouting background has made the Hall of Fame and that was Gil Brandt in 2018.
Brandt was an executive and scout with the Cowboys from 1960-1988 and helped pioneer many of the scouting techniques used by NFL teams today. Brandt oversaw the drafting of 10 Cowboys’ players who went on to be Hall of Famers, in addition to constructing two Super Bowl championship teams for the Cowboys in the 1970s. In comparison, the Steelers had 11 players who went on to have Hall of Fame careers under Nunn’s watch, along with architecting four Steelers’ Super Bowl championship teams within six years in the 1970s. If nominated, Nunn would become the first Black contributor to ever make the PFHOF. Nunn needs at least 80 percent approval by the selection committee to get in.
Nunn retired from his full-time position in 1987 but he still helped the Steelers as a part-time scout up until his passing in 2014 at the age of 89. In total, Nunn played a role in all six of the Steelers' Super Bowl titles.
Nunn is an inaugural member of the Black College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010 and is also an inaugural member of the Pittsburgh Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011. Nunn deserves a spot in Canton next. It's long overdue.
Selector and Hall of Famer Bill Polian presented on behalf of Nunn as the Contributor Finalist.