By Matt Pawlikowski
Larry Foote, LB #50
Experience: 10 years
When it comes to defense since the NFL merger, the Steelers mantra has been its linebacking corps. Jack Lambert, Kevin Greene, Jack Ham are just a few of the greats.
While Larry Foote will never get the recognition that some of those who have donned the black and gold have at the position, you will never hear him complain. What he has been, is consistent.
“Through high school and college I’ve always been known as a heady football player,” Foote said awhile back. “We ran a very NFL style defense at Michigan and my coach tossed a lot at us. He made me a student of the game, made me think and showed me the ins and outs.”
This is Foote’s second stint with the Steelers. He left after Super Bowl XLIII, requesting to be cut, and was resigned in 2010 to help provide leadership. He has done that and more.
Drafted by the Steelers with the fourth pick in 2002, Foote is perhaps best remembered for helping get the Steelers to Super Bowl XL, a year which may have been one of his best in the NFL. That season he started all 16 games, but it was his play in the AFC Championship game that sparked the team. With Denver driving, Foote stepped in front of Bronco’s quarterback Jake Plummer. It helped shift the momentum of the game.
At 32, Foote is one of the elder statesmen of the team. This year more than ever his leadership and skills have shined through. After the Steelers released long time defensive captain James Farrior, Foote was called upon to take his slot at inside linebacker.
This after spending the past two years as a reserve.
“When you’re trying to replace a James Farrior and what he did for this defense the last decade … those are big shoes to fill,” Foote said earlier this year.
All he has done is excel. Against the Broncos in the opener he had nine tackles and a sack, and also a forced fumble. Last week against Oakland he led the team with seven tackles.
“I came in as a backup, a role player and you’ve got to work to prove yourself,” Foote said last week. “First rounders don’t have to prove themselves, they’ve got their money … but us fourth rounders and guys that have to start off on special teams, you’ve got to steadily improve and when your opportunity comes along, you have to grab it.”
Foote attended Pershing High School in Detroit, where he was a monster on both offense and defense. He was an All-American and also scored 18 defensive touchdowns and 22 on offense as a wide receiver.
But there is more than just football to Foote–he is active in the Pittsburgh community. But perhaps what defines Foote more than his play on the field, is what he did for a distraught family in 2008. Upon hearing about a young boy who fell through the ice on a river outside of Detroit and drowned, Foote paid for the entire funeral.
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Matt Pawlikowski is a veteran journalist covering all things Steelers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.