Cook: Steelers' Farrior gets it right this time
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On one side of the Steelers' locker room Monday night at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium, there was wide receiver Hines Ward saying, "It was deja vu all over again." On the other side, it was linebacker Larry Foote saying, "This wasn't his first rodeo, you know?"
Forgive each man his use of a hackneyed sports cliche.
Like any of us could have described the end of the Steelers' 27-21 win against the Cincinnati Bengals and linebacker James Farrior's starring role in it any better.
This was moments after the Steelers survived the Bengals' fourth-quarter charge from a 27-7 deficit, securing the win, finally, when linebacker James Harrison and cornerback Ike Taylor broke up a pass for Bengals wide receiver Jordan Shipley at the Steelers' 2 with 34 seconds left.
"We've seen that horror flick before," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said afterward. Indeed. Last season when the Steelers played in Cincinnati, the Bengals chased them down after trailing, 20-9, in the fourth quarter to win, 23-20.
"It was deja vu all over again ... "
You have no idea, really.
In the game last season, Farrior was beaten on the Bengals' winning drive by running back Brian Leonard on an 11-yard pass play on fourth-and-10. This time on the Bengals' final drive, he was beaten by running back Cedric Benson for a 16-yard gain on third-and-14.
Well, Farrior wasn't actually beaten ...
"No, I was beaten," he said.
Really? It looked as if Farrior was with Benson when he stumbled. Farrior still got his hand on the pass from quarterback Carson Palmer, deflecting it, but not enough for Benson not to be able to make the catch.
"I still was beat," Farrior said. "He had a step on me. But if I had been able to keep my feet, maybe ... "
There was no time for Farrior to fret about the possibilities at that moment. The Bengals had new life and a first down at their 48. You might have been concerned about Farrior's ability to refocus after what happened last season. Foote wasn't.
All together now ...
"This wasn't his first rodeo ... "
Foote, Farrior's best friend, was with the Detroit Lions last season after spending seven years with the Steelers and didn't see Farrior get beat by Leonard. "But I saw it on TV and we talked about it," Foote said. "He took it personally. As our captain and the competitor that he is, he felt like he lost the game, which he didn't, but you'll never convince him of that. I just know that he couldn't wait to get back here to play 'em again."
Farrior played as if he had something to prove. He has been solid all season but often has been overlooked because of the collective brilliance of his fellow linebackers. Lawrence Timmons is the choice here as the Steelers' MVP at the season's halfway point. Harrison has made as much news off the field as he has on it with his seven sacks and his hard hits, legal or otherwise. LaMarr Woodley is conceding nothing in the sack race with Harrison, adding two against the Bengals to push his total to 5 1/2.
But nobody outshined Farrior Monday night.
"I thought it was his best game," Foote said.
At 35, in his 14th NFL season, making his 86th consecutive start for the Steelers counting postseason games and going back to the 2005 season, Farrior had 10 tackles, a sack and a quarterback hurry. It would have been a crying shame if that one pass to Benson had contributed to a Steelers' loss.
"He buckled down and got it done," Foote said of Farrior. "The whole defense did."
It wasn't easy, of course. But who said anything is easy in the NFL? The Steelers' defense allowed two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Harrison, for one, wasn't happy. "We need to put teams away and not let them back in the game," he said. "We're not doing that right now. It's a serious issue that we need to fix."
Farrior will be back in the defensive meeting room at the Steelers' South Side compound this morning, making sure the defense does just that. He didn't seem too concerned late Monday night, though. Maybe that's because the defense still ranks No. 2 in the NFL in yards allowed and No. 1 against the run and in points allowed. Or maybe it's just because he was so relieved that the pass to Benson didn't cost the team the game.
How's this for one more trite sports cliche?
Farrior exorcised a demon against the Bengals.
I admit, that's mine.
But it described just how Farrior felt when he saw Harrison and Taylor knock down Palmer's final fourth-down pass. He had been living a long time with the bad memories of that pass to Leonard last season. This night, he was feeling no pain as he pulled on his dress shirt over a left arm that had several gashes on the forearm and a bloody turf burn on the elbow. This night, he felt just joy.
"I saw that ball squirt out and it was like, 'This [thing] is over. Let's get out of here and go home,' " Farrior said.
The Steelers did just that. Presumably, Farrior led the way. That's what a captain does. That's what the team leader does.
He always leads the way.
First Published November 10, 2010 12:00 am