Steelers Notebook: Faneca's departure plays role in Steelers' extra pick
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DANA POINT, Calif. -- Blame Alan Faneca for the Steelers not receiving anything higher than a fifth-round draft choice as their lone compensatory pick from the NFL this week.
Faneca's departure from the Steelers as a free agent last season was the reason they landed the extra fifth-round pick, but his status also held them back from receiving a third-round choice. Faneca upheld his part by starting for the New York Jets after signing a big contract with them, and then making the Pro Bowl again.
But contained among the many rules in the complicated formula for deciding what and how many compensatory picks each team receives is one that declares that a 10-year veteran cannot bring higher than a fifth-round draft choice. Faneca finished his 12th NFL season.
Even the Steelers were unaware of the little-known rule until they asked the NFL this week for an explanation why they received only a fifth-round compensatory pick.
Tennessee has taken a more positive approach than others for playing the defending Super Bowl champions on the road in the season opener on prime time.
"I haven't been back in the locker room or the weight room, but I'm sure the guys will be real excited about that," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said of his team's opening date Sept. 10 at Heinz Field.
Three years ago, Denver owner Pat Bowlen successfully petitioned the NFL not to schedule his Broncos to open the season in Heinz Field after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. This year, the Baltimore Ravens took it a step further and asked the NFL not to schedule them for a night game in Heinz Field, according to a Baltimore Sun report.
"I know our guys are looking forward to it," said Fisher, whose team was seeded No. 1 in the playoffs last season after beating the Steelers, 31-14, Dec. 21 in Nashville. "That was a great ballgame, and we get a chance to play the world champions in the opener, and it's a great challenge for us."
A change in the NFL's overtime rules never came up on the agenda officially at the meetings this week despite the Steelers' hopes to tweak the rules. Team president Art Rooney II said they would like to see both teams get at least one possession in overtime.
"There were a few things that were brought up," said Fisher in his talks with groups of players as co-chairman of the league competition committee. "We didn't shoot them down. For example, somebody said how about the first team to six? Then you've got another issue, length of game. [The players] realized our system was designed to eliminate ties, and it's working."
One of the most fierce competitions among Steelers players this spring and perhaps into training camp might come as a surprise.
Coach Mike Tomlin said it will occur between the team's two long snappers. Greg Warren held that job the past four years until his ACL was torn Oct. 26 while playing against the New York Giants. Linebacker James Harrison was pressed into emergency duty and fired a snap over the head of his punter for a safety in that game.
The Steelers signed free agent Jared Retkofsky and the first-year player did a good job the rest of the way.
"I think we all gained a respect for the long-snapper position along the way with Jared," Tomlin said. "To his credit, he didn't blink in the face of adversity. It wasn't too big for him. What short-term misery it created for us is one of the probably unique position battles of training camp coming up between him and Greg Warren."
Tomlin said he sees more parity in the AFC North Division because of the play of the quarterbacks.
"We're going to have a very competitive division and I think it starts with the quality quarterbacks in our division. I doubt you'll find a coach who's not thinking about [Cincinnati's] Carson Palmer."
Tomlin did not become any more popular in Cleveland when he laughed the day after the Super Bowl when a Cleveland writer asked a question and Tomlin responded, "Oh, you're from Cleveland!"
"More than anything, I was responding to how he said it," Tomlin explained yesterday. "He said it in such a way that led to the response I had. I know what this business is about from a competitive standpoint and I'm not looking for any friends in Cleveland, Ohio."
Tomlin, on his team being a constant target in 2009 as Super Bowl champions: "Bring it on! It comes with the territory. I'd rather have that problem than the opposite."
First Published March 26, 2009 12:00 am