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Why the Steelers would be “ok” without James Farrior

This has been quite an offseason so far for the Steelers, and it’s just getting started. Between the Wallace debates, Todd Haley & Ben Roethlisberger, the Rooney’s, the salary cap, now Hines Ward being released there is plethora of questions the Steeler Nation is debating around the water cooler. I should preface the title though by saying I’m one of the biggest James Farrior fans you’ll find, through all the Joey Porters and James Harrison’s throughout the years, Potsie has been a constant stabilizing force on Dick Lebeau’s unit.  Unfortunately though like we always say, father time is relentless.

So anyway; fresh off the news of Hines Ward, is that the next player on the chopping block in Pittsburgh could be James Farrior. Nothing is etched in stone as of now and the Steelers have made no indication of their intentions regarding Farrior, let’s be clear on that.

As we’ve seen the Steelers don’t always do what you expect and if they feel he can still be productive for another year they may decide to keep him around another year and let Larry Foote go. The Rooney’s will never make a move without having a plan in place to deal with the potential consequences. Potsie has been a team captain for the last 8 seasons and has been a staple on the defense since coming over from the Jets in 2002.  He is well respected both on and off the field by not only his teammates but around the NFL as one of the best middle linebackers in the modern era.

He’s not as flashy as a Ray Lewis but certainly his production speaks for itself; James has averaged over 73 tackles per year since joining the Steelers.  In 2010, he had 80 tackles, 6 sacks, 5 passes defensed and 1 forced fumble. His production dropped off in 2011 though as he split time with veteran partner Larry Foote. James finished up 2011 with 57 tackles, and 3 passes defensed.

Farrior’s agent, Ralph Cindrich ignited the media storm today when he tweeted out the following:  @RalphCindrich: Percentages are not w/ #Steelers keeping @JamesFarrior. He wanted to retire a PS but he is healthy & ready-wants to play.

 The Steelers can get by without Farrior though and quite possibly even be improved. The reasons for that logic are not that farfetched though if you look at who’s on the roster now and who they can draft. Lawrence Timmons being the starter goes without saying, but the teams has options now in respect to his counterpart on the inside. Stevenson Sylvester, who will be entering his 3rd year in the league should be able to make a push for the starting job.  The 5th round draft pick out of Utah has had 2 seasons work with Keith Butler and learn from guys like Farrior so you would expect him to start coming into his own now.  He’s got the speed and size to play in the NFL, he just needs experience, and there’s no better way than to jump right in and learn under fire.

If Farrior is released, you can make a strong case to keep Larry Foote in the fold. He can still play special teams and can fill in opposite Timmons when needed. With his cap hit at about $3.6 million, he’ll clearly either be released or asked to restructure and what happens with Farrior will probably help determine which way they go. Honestly if Potsie is gone I would feel better having Foote on the roster as insurance for at least 1 additional year.

The option of Dont’a Hightower in the upcoming draft is very interesting.  He met with the Steelers, and about two dozen other teams at the combine, so needless to say he’s a hot commodity. Should the Steelers decide to forgo the offensive line and nose tackle positions in the first round, Hightower would be the obvious choice.  He’s fast enough and has the build to drop into coverage as well as rush right up the gut and get after the ball carrier or quarterback. Even if you don’t start him right away he could potentially be a guy who works his way into the lineup by midseason.

Competition breeds excellence and I’m sure Keith Butler and Dick Lebeau would love nothing more than to see these players all battle it out full bore in training camp for the starting job. That’s not the say they wouldn’t miss Farrior being out there, but if you can’t have him the options of Sylvester and Hightower would have to be intriguing.  Make no mistake though, James’ presence would be missed from a leadership standpoint both on and off the field. However as in the same case as Hines Ward, his on field production can certainly be improved upon.

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