Perennial Pro-Bowl guard Alan Faneca was the only no-show from this week's voluntary workouts. Granted, these workouts were voluntary, but let's face it, most everybody usually shows up unless they're trying to make some sort of statement to their organization. It's also not par for the course for a no-show to be one of the co-captains of a franchise defined by selflessness and organizational commitment.
There's two disturbing factors at play here: 1)Negotiations to extend Faneca's contract prior to his season have gone nowhere; and 2) Faneca hasn't exactly embraced the arrival of new head coach Mike Tomlin with open arms.
Faneca is scheduled to make $4,375,000 this year, including $1 million roster bonus owed to him this month. That's not chump change, but columnist Ed Bouchette pointed out that:
Let's be clear that Faneca is not making any Lance Briggs type ultimatiums--that is, threatening to sit out an entire year unless the Steelers rightly compensate him financially prior to his final year under contract with Pittsburgh. He simply skipped non-mandatory workouts, and for all we know, he had a legitimate reason to do so.
More likely however, is the possibility that Faneca is subtly hinting to the front-office that things could get messy if he is not adequately compensated for his long and successful tenure as a Steeler.
Faneca, unlike Plaxico Burress, Joey Porter, Levon Kirkland, et al, can safely be stowed away under the category of 'True Steelers'--a not-so-clever phrase I've been using lately as more and more contract negotiations enter the forefront of our minds. The Rooney family and Kevin Colbert have been quick to pull the plug on 'me-first' Steelers in the past--even on Antwaan Randle-El who clearly brought a dimension to the Steelers' offense and special teams that would be nearly impossible to replace. It's going to be harder to justify doing so with Faneca however, who is one of the most respected and well-liked guys in the locker room.
At Faneca's age, it probably wouldn't behoove him to sit out an entire year hoping to cash in big in 2008 when he becomes a free-agent. It's too risky, even for a guy with as strong a pedigree as Faneca.
But, this small step could be a foretaste of things to come for our beloved organization, as more and more of our most prominent players approach the end of their contracts with the team.
Let's hope not.