Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Lolley is a contributor to the Observer-Reporter and has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1993.

We will find out later this week – Wednesday morning, in fact – if the Steelers will have at least one or more members in the 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.

That is when the special Senior Committee will announce the 15-person Centennial group for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Former Steelers safety Donnie Shell is one of the finalists in that group, as is former head coach Bill Cowher.

After that, we’ll see if the Steelers get two more new members of the Hall of Fame Feb. 1 in Miami when the 48 selectors for the Hall of Fame will vote on this year’s modern era class. This year, the 15 finalists include Alan Faneca, who is a finalist for the fifth time, and Troy Polamalu, who is in his first year of eligibility.

That Faneca, a nine-time Pro Bowl and six-time first-team All-Pro, hasn’t been selected yet is one of the biggest oversights of recent Hall of Fame voting. Faneca was the dominant guard of his era. No other player on this year’s finalist ballot was voted to the Pro Bowl or All-Pro as often.

If the voters have any question of Faneca’s talent, they need to look no further than Ravens’ Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis for an endorsement.

“I think a Hall of Famer is somebody who truly has the career that inspires others to be like them,” Lewis said of Faneca. “To be great. And every time he stepped on the field, he was great.”

Lewis thinks it’s time for Faneca to get in.

“In that box is what made Alan so dominant,” Lewis said. “He understood levels, he understood how much he has to give a rub, how much not, how fast he has to climb. A lot of linemen you can just beat because they come up and just look at you and try to figure you out. He doesn’t have to figure you out because he has everyone on one chain. Alan was dominant. He was dominant.”

Lewis just as easily could have been referring to Polamalu, whose exploits as a strong safety were legendary.

“When you talk about why the Hall of Fame for Troy, there are many kids, there are many people that will play this game that will hope one day that they had the humility and the passion to play the game like Troy Polamalu played the game,” Lewis said.

During their careers, the argument was often about who was better, the Ravens’ Ed Reed or Polamalu.

But Lewis said they both changed the game with the way they played. Reed was voted into the Hall of Fame last season, in his first year of eligibility. Lewis feels Polamalu deserves the same.

“They were really very, very similar,” Lewis said. “And I think it is from a ball-hawking ability. A lot of people don’t realize how much Troy and Ed actually blitzed. And it is because how good they were. They would figure out angles and you could have really slow offensive linemen trying to get to them and it was too late. I was watching a clip of Troy the other day and I turned it off so quickly because it did not end well for us.”

That was the case a lot as the Steelers and Ravens banged heads quite a bit during the 2000s, with the Ravens winning Super Bowls in 2001 and 2013 and the Steelers in 2006 and 2009. The Steelers also got there in 2011.

They were two of the dominant teams of the first portion of the 2000s. And those dominant teams – and players – deserve to be recognized with the game’s highest honor.

  • It doesn’t matter if North Carolina is down this season, Pitt winning at Chapel Hill last week for the first time in program history was a big deal.

To get the recruits he needs to get the Panthers back to being an NCAA powerhouse, Jeff Capel needed a win like the one at North Carolina on his resume. He now has one.

  • The NFL should do away with the ridiculous pass interference penalty reviews this offseason. Either that, or it should take the decision-making process out of the hands of Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron.

Better yet, it needs to do away with the pass interference review and Riveron. Riveron has shown time and again he’s incapable of making correct decisions. And he winds up embarrassing the league time and again with his ridiculous interpretations of the rules.

Today’s picks: The Saturday Divisional Round games are already in the books, so we’ll pick from the two games this week.

Kansas City (minus 9 ½) over Houston: The Texans beat the Chiefs in Kansas City earlier this season. But that was with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes hobbled with an ankle injury. He’s healthy now, as are the Chiefs. And the Texans are banged up in the secondary. Take the Chiefs, 34-21

Seattle (plus 4 ½) over Green Bay: Teams coming off the bye were 4-0 in last year’s postseason and are 47-21 since 2002. So, the Packers should be favored in this game. But this Packers team is not the high-powered offensive juggernaut of previous seasons. Aaron Rodgers has topped 300 passing yards just once in the past eight games. He’s thrown more than two touchdown passes just once in that span. The Seahawks might not win this game, but they’ll keep it close. Take the Seahawks to cover in a 24-21 loss.

Last Week: 1-1 Overall: 45-40-1

Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for DKPittsburghsports.com and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

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