PITTSBURGH - Longtime star lineman Alan Faneca says he is through negotiating with the Pittsburgh Steelers, pushing them again Friday to trade him and promising he won't play for them past this season.
Faneca, an All-Pro left guard five times since 2001, reported to a three-day minicamp only because it is mandatory and he could be fined for not attending. He didn't threaten to sit out the season, but made clear his unhappiness with a team that won the Super Bowl only 15 months ago.
"This will be my last year as a Pittsburgh Steeler," Faneca said.
Faneca, a nine-season veteran widely regarded as one of the NFL's top offensive linemen, said the Steelers' only offer to him wouldn't have made him one of the NFL's 10 highest-paid guards. Faneca will make $4.375 million this season in the final year of a contract worth $25.6 million in 2002, but was subsequently renegotiated to help the Steelers get under the salary cap.
Faneca would like to be traded, but is resigned with staying with Pittsburgh for another season.
"I've been asking since February to trade me, to let me go," Faneca said. "I've done my piece. I've done my time. I've done everything I can for this organization. I've lived and breathed Steeler football for nine years and gave them everything I've had and helped them win a Super Bowl. In my mind, I've earned the right to be treated fairly." (you can't argue that)
Faneca's criticism is virtually unprecedented for a Steelers player so accomplished _ only a handful of players in team history have made All-Pro more than he has.
The Steelers usually re-sign their key players and, thanks greatly to player-friendly owner Dan Rooney, have long been considered the NFL's model franchise for handling players.
That these barbed remarks came from Faneca, an accessible but almost never outspoken player, made his pointed comments all the more surprising. Faneca is worried that, should he sustain a career-ending injury, he has no contract protection beyond 2007.
"To make me go out there this year and play football with no security, just to go out there and play football, for what I've done for this organization, in my mind, it's not right," he said.
Team spokesman Dave Lockett said the Steelers wouldn't comment because they don't negotiate publicly. New coach Mike Tomlin called Faneca's outburst "part of the things that create distractions" and must be overcome during his first season.
"It's part of the things you've got to fight," Tomlin said. "It comes with the territory in today's NFL."
The 30-year-old Faneca also effectively said the Steelers misled him two years ago, making him think he would get a significant contract offer only to make a low-ball offer.
"To do what I've done to help this team out, the things I've done for this team and to be told two years ago, `We'll talk when the year's up, that's how we do things,' and I play by the rules, I do that, and the offer I get is pretty much a non-offer," Faneca said. "What am I to think?"
Faneca also doesn't understand why the Steelers are reluctant to give him more money when it could be expensive to replace him. Guards such as Eric Steinbach, Kris Dielman and Derrick Dockery all got big contracts this offseason, and the Cowboys guaranteed $18.75 million to lineman Leonard Davis, previously considered a disappointment in Arizona.
To Faneca, the Steelers' decisions to not re-sign him and to release former Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter, who later signed a big-money deal with Miami, send a poor signal to their players.
"What are the guys in the room to think?" Faneca said, sweat still dripping off him after a two-hour practice. "If they can do it to me and everybody else and let Joey go and do things like that, what does that say to the rest of the guys?"
Faneca's remarks also illustrate the nervousness some veteran Steelers players feel after the club replaced 15-year coach Bill Cowher with the inexperienced Tomlin. He was the Vikings defensive coordinator for only one season before taking over from one of the NFL's most successful coaches over the last quarter-century.
Asked his impression about Tomlin, Faneca said, "I've got no impression."
Faneca wanted the Steelers to promote longtime assistant coach Russ Grimm, who has since moved to Arizona with new Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, another former Steelers assistant.
"I think everybody's unsure about the direction of this team," All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu said. "It's a first-year coach. ... He's inherited a team. He didn't build it up from 13 years of being in the league, for example. Obviously, it's going to take time as a natural product of being a new coach."
Polamalu, also unsigned past this season, called Faneca's words "troublesome" because they come from a player widely respected by his teammates.
However, unlike Faneca, Polamalu is optimistic the Steelers will make him an acceptable contract offer by September.