James Farrior thinks Larry Foote will play in the NFL in 2014

Justin K. Aller

Even if Foote is able to catch on somewhere else, the Steelers will have to bank on Foote's footprint in terms of leadership with the younger linebackers on the roster to help rebuild a sagging run defense.

When you have questions, ask those who know.

Few know what it's like to be a linebacker in the NFL, then get released, at the level former Steelers LB James Farrior does. Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook spoke with Farrior about the Steelers' decision to release Foote, and how Farrior dealt with his release in 2012.

"That's when it really hit home," Farrior said Friday from his home in Houston, Texas. "You think they might bring you back, then you get the call and you know it's over. I'm sure it's been a rough couple days for [Foote]."

Cook wrote Foote was unavailable for comment, but Farrior's opinion seems particularly striking. Foote, minus a one-year stint playing for the Detroit Lions, has been with the Steelers for his entire NFL career. He grew from a back-up role and special teams player to the starter as both the mack and the buck linebacker in the Steelers' defense.

Farrior told Cook "I think another team will take him. He's still got it. The stuff he brings to the locker room is worth it. But going to another team? Learning a new system? Playing with a new bunch of guys? That's like being a rookie again. That's rough at this stage of his career."

One of the main issues surrounding the loss of a player like Foote was the centerpiece of the loss of Farrior; leadership. The Steelers will likely pit incumbent Vince Williams against a presumably healthy Sean Spence for the starting linebacker position opposite Larry Foote, with the possibility of the team adding a veteran linebacker or a rookie into that mix. Those inside linebacker positions are both critical in terms of communicating and relaying information among the rest of the defense. While Williams likely grew tremendously in terms of comprehension and communication on the field, he's still a second-year player (and one that saw his snaps reduce tremendously throughout the season). Spence, the team's third round pick in 2012, hasn't played a down yet.

Foote was given a contract extension last season likely as a stand-in veteran holding down the spot as younger players developed. The Steelers have to be counting on Foote's footprint with those younger players to maintain a level of leadership heading into 2014.

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