Farrior 'not going out easy'

Ralph N. Paulk
| Friday, Sept. 16, 2011

James Farrior is the mortar of a usually brick-solid Steelers defense.

As the 36-year-old linebacker paced the sideline with his helmet dangling at his side Sunday, the defending AFC champions' defense looked like a soft mix of sand and water. It was vulnerable against a revenge-minded, physical Baltimore offense.

Farrior walked slowly onto the field at M&T Bank Stadium during a timeout to offer advice and encouragement to backup linebacker Larry Foote as the Ravens marched methodically downfield during a flawless, 12-play, 84-yard scoring drive.

It was an unusual situation for Farrior, who watched from the sideline during Baltimore's last three first-half possessions. He wasn't hurt, and he didn't ask for a breather.

"We made a commitment that both men (Farrior and Foote) were going to play," said coach Mike Tomlin after a humbling 35-7 season-opening defeat.

But Farrior's extended stay on the bench was curious, if not reflective of the fact that 15 years in the NFL has given Tomlin cause to save Farrior's body, even early in the season.

"We have to keep guys somewhat fresh when you can and take care of guys so they can make it through the season," said defensive end Aaron Smith, a 13-year veteran. "This is a marathon."

Farrior, though, isn't ready to be treated like a washed-up pitcher. He insisted throughout this week he'll be ready to go the distance when the Steelers host the Seattle Seahawks at Heinz Field on Sunday.

"I don't know if I've saved my body, but I do think I've been really lucky," said Farrior, who had five tackles against Baltimore. "I've been blessed not to have any major injuries or have anything to hamper my play."

Farrior admittedly was a little sore earlier this week. He sat out Wednesday's practice.

"You always know you're going to be sore after the Baltimore game," Farrior said. "I'm used to that."

The Steelers, it seems, are preparing for a transition at linebacker. It's an undeniable reality.

"Our time is coming," receiver Hines Ward said. "(Farrior) is not going to grope about things. You can either complain or dwell about it or accept the role and move on."

Farrior is being pursued by the clock. And linebacker James Harrison is soldiering on despite two offseason back surgeries and a minor knee injury sustained during the opener.

Foote, Stevenson Sylvester and Jason Worilds will have their chances if Tomlin commits to a similar substitution pattern throughout the season.

"They are always looking for some younger and faster guy to replace you," said Farrior, who in 2008 signed a four-year contract extension through next season. "That's the way of the league. We understand that part of the business, but I'm not going out easy.

"It's been a long road, but it seems like it's going fast. I contribute my longevity to my offseason training. I do everything possible to be in the best shape."

The Steelers clearly are trying to reshape and infuse youth on an aging defense. The Steelers have eight defensive starters 30 or older -- including Farrior, Harrison, Smith, strong safety Troy Polamalu and free safety Ryan Clark.

"I'm trying to find the same fountain of youth that (Farrior) has found," said Clark, in his 10th season. "James is still making the same plays he's been making for years. We started rotating Larry Foote early last year, but even then James wasn't thinking about retirement."

Additional Information:

James Farrior

Age: 36

Position/experience: Linebacker, 15th season

College: Virginia

Highlights: Is signed through 2012 season ... First-round pick by New York Jets in 1997 ... Signed with Steelers as free agent before the 2002 season ... Had team-high 127 tackles in 2003 ... Was All-Pro selection in 2004 and made first Pro Bowl appearance.

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