Tom Pelissero of NFL Network called former Steelers linebacker James Farrior one of the most underrated linebackers in NFL history in a ranking during Good Morning on Football on Tuesday.
Pelissero ranked Farrior as the second-most underrated linebacker of all time, behind New York Jets backer Larry Grantham. New York Giants outside linebacker Carl Banks, Otis Wilson of the Chicago Bears and Mo Lewis of he Jets rounded out Pelissero’s top five.
Farrior was originally drafted by the Jets in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft. But his career really took off when he joined the Steelers as a free agent in 2002. Farrior was a two-time All Pro and a two-time Pro Bowler with the Steelers while winning Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII with the team. Farrior finished second in NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2004, losing by four votes to Ed Reed.
He finished his career in 2011, having recorded 1,440 tackles, 98 tackles for loss, 47 quarterback hits, 35.5 sacks, 18 forced fumbles, 12 fumble recoveries, 11 interceptions and 69 passes defended.
Since the Steelers implemented the 3-4 defense in 1983, the team has had plenty of starts man the outside linebacker position, from Mike Merriweather to Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Jason Gildon, Joey Porter, James Harrison and now T.J. Watt.
But stars at the inside linebacker have been less common. Farrior was one of the best players on a Steelers defense that won two Super Bowls, but without the dominant statistical performances of some of his outside linebacker brethren, his contributions to the cause have sometimes been overlooked by history.
The Steelers inducted Farrior into the team’s Hall of Honor in 2021, and he said it was the Steelers culture that allowed him to have immediate success in Pittsburgh.
“The whole organization just welcoming me in and the player just treating me no different than any other players in the locker room, it was a more family atmosphere,” Farrior said. “They made me feel at home. The coaches were great. They all wanted me to succeed. I felt the love here. That’s why we were successful.”