On the Steelers: James Farrior should expect to sit out more plays this season

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James Farrior has learned to fend off blocks from 330-pound guards, make tackles on 250-pound running backs and cover wide receivers during his 15 seasons in the NFL.

Now he must learn to handle something entirely different, watching from the sidelines with his Steelers defense on the field.

Farrior, 36, spent several series on Sunday in Baltimore watching Larry Foote play his position at inside linebacker. It is not something he is accustomed to. Farrior, as the "mack" linebacker, hardly ever came off the field. He played on running downs, passing downs, everything but punting downs. He led the team in tackles six times and was second twice over the past eight seasons.

Last Sunday in Baltimore, however, he was forced to watch several series, which will continue to be the plan, coach Mike Tomlin said.

"I'm cool with it," said Farrior, long a leader and defensive captain with the Steelers. "I think it will help out in the long run, in November and December."

One of his co-captains on offense, Hines Ward, applauded Farrior for how he has taken what is not a demotion but is a concession to age.

"Our time is coming," said Ward, 35. "He's a captain, he's a leader, he's not going to gripe about things. They were rotating him and Foote. It's part of the business.

"My day is coming. I see how he's dealing with stuff like that. Has he lost a step? I don't think so. He's still a great player. He's the leader of that defense; that's why he was voted captain. That's just what the coaching staff wanted to do.

"Maybe it's to save him in the long haul, to keep him fresh toward the end of the season when we need him the most."

Farrior said he does not feel different physically now, but it might catch up with him later. The one concession he has made to age, he said, is to spend more time in the weight room in order to keep up his strength.

The plan, he said, is not set in stone.

"I think it just depends on how it plays out, what everyone looks like. I don't think it's anything set."

Chop blocks: NFL again looks other way

There has been some dispute whether the chop blocks thrown by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday were legal or not. No Ravens were penalized, and none were fined. ESPN analyst Merril Hoge, who has access to the tapes each team shoots at games, wrote on Twitter, "After watching the end zone copy of the coaching tape the ravens O line had several illegal chop blocks on steeler D that were never called."

Let's forget whether the chop blocks were legal or not, or whether they had anything to do with the Ravens' ability to rush for 170 yards against what was the third-best rush defense in the modern history of the NFL last season. The crux of the matter is the Ravens came out chop-blocking with impunity and the NFL will do nothing about it.

It is no wonder defensive players feel they have no protection from an NFL that wants nothing but offense. The chop block can take out a defensive lineman's knees in a heartbeat and either end or put a severe crimp into his career.

While the league moves to protect "defenseless" players on offense, such as receivers, it does little to protect those on defense who are defenseless as nose tackle Casey Hampton was Sunday.

If it is legal, the Steelers might as well get with the program and develop a strategy for using the chop block.

A BOGO special?

Think again

Why don't the Steelers just go out and get some good cornerbacks? Because you cannot just run down to the Piggly Wiggly and pick a couple off the shelves. That was a favorite saying of Chuck Noll, and it holds true today.

Some people seem to think teams can just wave a magic wand over their problems and fix them with new players, especially those cut by other teams. Perhaps the addition of tackle Flozell Adams last season helped make Steelers fans think that way. Willie Colon hurt? No problem, go find another veteran offensive tackle to help you get to the Super Bowl.

But that is a rare occasion. Every team has weaknesses in this age of the salary cap and free agency. Left cornerback is one for the Steelers. They drafted corners in the third and fourth round. Why not the first or second? Because they also needed to replenish their defensive and offensive lines, and you cannot use your first-round pick on two players, the NFL just won't allow it.

And they did sign a good cornerback this year. His name is Ike Taylor, and, if they had not signed him, he would be somewhere else right now. He was the Steelers' best defensive player Sunday.

Expect two gameday QBs to be the norm

It should be no surprise that the Steelers scratched Dennis Dixon last Sunday and will go with only two quarterbacks again today. The new rule that makes no exception for quarterbacks on the roster for games this year likely will have most teams going with just two and making another position player active.

It's not really much of a gamble. It's rare when a team has to go to its third quarterback.

"I have not seen it," said backup Charlie Batch, in his 14th NFL season. "I've seen it come close but I haven't seen it."

Perhaps the only time that has happened for the Steelers since the NFL merger came in 1977 in a game in Houston when defensive back Tony Dungy was forced to play quarterback because of injuries during the game.

You want a gamble? The Baltimore Ravens have just two quarterbacks on their roster, Joe Flacco and rookie Tyrod Taylor from Virginia Tech.

Batch, on the NFL Players Association executive board, said the new rule was a compromise during negotiations.

Previously, teams were permitted to have 45 of their 53-man roster active for games with a 46th deemed the third quarterback, which carried some weird rules as to when he could play and repercussions that went with it.

Now, a team can designate 46 players as active for games -- whether they chose a third quarterback or not.


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