There was no love lost between the Steelers and Ravens during Ray Lewis' 17-year career as a middle linebacker with Baltimore.
But it seems there was a whole lot of respect.
Former Steelers' stars Alan Faneca and Troy Polamalu are among the 15 finalists for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And according to Lewis, who went into the Hall of Fame himself in 2018, both are more than deserving.
"I think a Hall of Famer is somebody who truly has the career that inspires others to be like them," Lewis said. "To be great. And every time he stepped on the field, he was great."
The he to whom Lewis referred to was Faneca, a nine-time Pro Bowl guard and six-time first-team All-Pro, both the most of any finalist on this year's ballot. But he just as easily could have been speaking of Polamalu.
"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.
Lewis should know. He played 27 of his 228 career games against the Steelers -- more than 10 percent. And there was usually plenty on the line when the two AFC rivals got together.
Faneca, who played for the Steelers from 1998 through 2007 was a big part of it. He missed one game because of injury in his 10 seasons with the Steelers, sitting out another when the team rested starters in a meaningless regular season finale. For his career, he played in 206 games, playing two more years for the Jets and one for the Cardinals.
So was Polamalu, who played from 2003 through 2014. He appeared in 158 career games, all with the Steelers, earning Pro Bowl status eight times and first-team All-Pro status four.
This is the fifth time Faneca has been a finalist for enshrinement, the most of any of the players of the current group of finalists, which were announced a couple of weeks ago.
Lewis thinks it's past 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 said the same about Polamalu.
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 it. 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 usually the case.
"I haven’t been the same since," Lewis said. "When you are watching the play you are asking yourself, 'Are you not looking at probably the best player on that team. Right now. You have to locate Troy Polamalu.' Just his ability to change games. I used to always say, the greatest ones find a way to change the game in the course of the game. Like we have many times in our rivalries to watch Troy — knowing I hated it — but had to respect it."
The voting for the modern era finalists will take place Feb. 1 in Miami, the day before the Super Bowl, with this year's class announced that night at the NFL Award Ceremony.
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