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A tribute to Larry Foote

May 05, 2009 By: Admin Category: Players

May 5, 2009
By Donald Starver

Well, the Larry Foote saga finally came to an end with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The Steelers released him yesterday.

This comes as no surprise to fans.  ESPN mistakenly reported that the Steelers had released him last week.  They hadn’t.  However, Foote had asked for an opportunity to play for a team that would allow him to be more than a two down linebacker.  Unspoken in his request was probably also a desire to get one final big payday before his career is over.  Nothing wrong with that.  After all, Foote is 28 years old, and NFL players can’t play forever.

The Steelers tried to honor Foote’s request.  They tried to trade him to another team.  However, they got no takers in the trade market.  Perhaps this was inevitable.  Why would a team give the Steelers a draft pick for Foote when they knew that they could get him for free when the Steelers released him?  So on Monday, the Steelers gave Foote his unconditional release.


I have read various Steelers message boards, and heard fans say some things about Foote that I found to be disturbing.  First, I saw several fans call Foote “disloyal” for requesting a trade.  I don’t understand this line of thinking.  Fans have to understand that the NFL is a business, and that there is no such thing as loyalty.  Frankly, why should a player be loyal to a team, when teams can cut players anytime they want to?  Moreover, when the players are cut, the teams owe them nothing, even if they still have years left on their contract.  So in my opinion, the disloyalty argument just doesn’t hold up.

Foote was not disloyal.  He was a victim of the realities of the salary cap in the NFL.  He was a 28 year old player with a $3 million dollar salary cap hit, and a younger, faster, 1st round draft pick playing behind him.  Foote’s fate was sealed, whether he had requested a trade or not.

Other fans have said that Foote was the weak link in the Steelers defensive lineup, and that he needed to go.  Sorry, but I can’t agree with that argument either.  Sure, Larry was the least decorated of the Steelers’ starting linebackers.  But he plays on a team with NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison, Pro Bowler James Farrior, and emerging superstar LaMarr Woodley.  That’s a pretty outstanding bunch.  Somebody has to be a role player.

Foote played a role, and he played it well.  Need proof?  Larry Foote started every game for the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2004.  The Steelers defense is the top rated defense in the NFL over that period.  That’s right, #1.  During that time, Joey Porter left the team, and James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley became starters, but Larry Foote was always there.  The quiet constant in the Steelers’ dominant “D”.

Perhaps the most important statistic of all is that Larry Foote was the starting linebacker on two Super Bowl championship teams.  He helped put two Lombardi trophies in the Steelers’ trophy case.  How many did Greg Lloyd win?  None.  Kevin Greene?  None.  Jason Gildon?  None.  Levon Kirkland?  None.  Mike Merriweather?  None.  Kendrell Bell?  None. See my point?

I’m not saying that Foote was a better player than the linebackers listed above.  He wasn’t.  But Larry Foote was a reliable, dedicated player on some of the greatest teams in Steelers history.  Only the Steel Curtain of the 1970′s accomplished more.  For that, Foote will always hold a position of honor.


Like former Steelers Joey Porter, Kevin Greene, Rod Woodson, Carnell Lake, Clark Haggans, Kimo Von Oelhoffen, and Levon Kirkland, Foote will not end his playing career with the Steelers.  But there is an interesting phenomenon that happens with Steelers players.  Even if they go to another team, in their hearts they always remain Steelers.  Rod Woodson won a Super Bowl with the Ravens.  But he thinks of himself as a Steeler.  Kevin Greene only played for the Steelers for 2 seasons.  But he thinks of himself as a Steeler.  The Miami Dolphins made Joey Porter a very rich man.  But in his heart, he is still a Steeler.

The Steelers organization, and Steeler Nation has a funny way of doing that to players.  It gets in their system, and they can’t get it out.  No matter where they go.  Once a Steeler, always a Steeler.  Players understand that for a brief period of time, they were a part of something special.  They know that the Steelers are not just any football team.  They know that Steelers fans are not just any fans.

Good luck, Larry.  You will always be a Steeler.  Regardless of whether you sign with your hometown Detroit Lions, or if you end up with the Arizona Cardinals (like 99% of ex-Steelers), your heart will always be in Pittsburgh, and we will always consider you to be family.

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12 Comments to “A tribute to Larry Foote”

  1. DrObviousSo says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Foote’s been a great player for Pittsburgh, and he’ll be great for another team. There’s nothing wrong with reading the writing on the wall, and how can you blame someone for wanting to play for their hometown team (even if it is Detroit).

    I’m just glad he’s not going to the Pats (I hope)

  2. As long as he doesn’t go to New England or a division rival, I wish him well.

  3. stiller39 says:

    Nice way to put this in perspective. Very true!

  4. C J March says:

    Good Article and fine tribute to an unsung hero. I hope it all works out for him. In an era of stories of DUI’s, drugs, and domestic violence, his support of the family in Detroit who lost a young son to drowning was extremely touching and a shot in the arm to humanity. I wish it had gotten more attention from the media but we know what they like. Personalities like his will be missed and he deserves all the success he can get no matter where he plays.

  5. Very good article. Larry Foote came in and started when Kendrell Bell went down. Remember Bell? He was going to be the “superstar” but could not stay healthy. Foote started and played VERY well. Well enough to not lose his position, right? He was a constant on the best defense in the NFL over the last 5 years and deserves the opportunity to start somewhere. I believe he has a few good years left. I would NOT be surprised if he ends up still in the AFC North.

  6. Big Matt says:

    Larry was a good guy and will be missed. Even if not for the salary cap thing he was probably going to lose his starting job this year. I think he handled this well and hopefully he does well in his next home,,in the NFC.

  7. preussenotto says:


    LF did a great but unheralded job over the years. It makes me think of what L Taylor said about Harry Carson, that he knew he could freelance to make great plays because Harry Carson would be there to take care of things when he was out of position. Best of luck LF when you’re not playing the Steelers

  8. I love Larry Foote as a great football player and an important person in the Steeler harmony. I respect and love him more for publicly took the role of a single father when he was confronted with information that he had a son he was not aware of, He could have denigned it. He stepped up like a man and modeled to others what father love is. We are loosing role model far more valuable than the team he plays for. Thank you Larry. a Pittsburgh Hero

  9. Larry Foote was a professional and a gentleman. He played his position very well. While I am sad to see him go, I wish him well. Certainly I want to see all the great Steelers players retire as Steelers, but Larry is a competitor and I have to respect his desire to keep working. I hope he comes back for 1 more season in the black and gold to retire a Steeler. Thank you for everything Larry, you are a class act and you WILL be missed!

  10. I agree completely and really like to see someone show some love to an unsung hero. I rooted for Larry when we first drafted him and always liked his workman like approach to his position. He embodied what it is to be part of a Steeler “Team”

    I sincerely hope that he does well in going home to Michigan *as long as he’s not doing it against us!

  11. I grateful to have had the opportunity to know Larry. I’m glad he’s had the chance to help earn the respect on one of the greatest defensive team ever. Larry was not a “marquis” player. What he was was a good football player on a great defense. Larry has also proven to be a great business man in a league that will kick a player to the curb just as soon as they are done with you. He knew that his time with the Steelers was fading and he would not make the money he could elsewhere. Also, if you want to talk about loyalty, Larry is being loyal to the city he grew up in. He now has the opportunity to interact with a little league program that helped him get his start. He is being loyal to a family, which is based in Detroit, being able to be there yearlong and now has the great opportunity to play in front of for what probably be his last years in pro football. Finally, Larry is being loyal to a child he unknowingly fathered, and has stepped up to the plate and garnered full custody of, and he is able help deepened his Christain beliefs in his home church, Word of Faith Christian Center, in Southfield, Mi. For the people who want to talk about Larry’s loyalties, I think he has his head on straight for a league that’s created many undeserving millionaires!!!

  12. Big Les,
    Thanks for the insight on Larry Foote. I didn’t know some of that about him. Particularly the part about him taking custody of his child, or about his church. I have even more respect for him now.


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