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In terms of work ethic and how to conduct yourself, early on every season, Steelers veterans give the rookies a mantra: Follow Farrior.

“I take pride in that,” Farrior said. “I know the guys have a lot of respect for me and a lot of the younger guys look up to me, so it always keeps me in line to know that I’ve got eyes watching me. I know I’ve always got to be doing the right thing.”

Pittsburgh’s defense certainly had flashier players who are more ubiquitous in national television commercials (Polamalu) or who are much more talkative (Porter).

Despite Farrior’s easygoing demeanor and relatively soft-spoken voice, the Steelers turn to him in the huddle and in the locker room.

“I just love how before the game, he makes it feels like a battle,” linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “He gets the troops all geeked up.”

“His calming presence in times of adversity, we know ‘Pot-Dog’ gives us that when we need it,” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “He’s consistent year-in and year-out.”

Since the days of Hall of Famers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert, the Steelers have been known for their linebackers. Fifty times in the past 40 years, a Pittsburgh linebacker has been selected to the Pro Bowl.

It’s difficult to compare players across eras, but the current linebacker group of Farrior, Harrison, Timmons and Woodley is among the franchise’s best.

“Whenever you’ve got an opportunity to play for an organization like Pittsburgh, who’s always historically been known for great linebackers, you definitely love to be a part of that,” Farrior said. “It’s something that I definitely take pride in and our group as a whole definitely takes pride in. Looking back on the older guys who have paved the way, we definitely don’t want to let those guys down.”

Having missed only two games over the past eight seasons, Farrior is there for the Steelers. Avoiding major injuries has played a factor in his longevity. Only Ray Lewis of the rival Baltimore Ravens is older than Farrior among active linebackers.

“I never even dreamed of playing this long,” Farrior said. “It’s definitely a blessing.

“I think I’ve gotten a lot smarter, and I think that’s helped me keep up with the younger, faster guys. The league gets faster and stronger every year, so you’ve got to try to do other things as you get older, try to supplement those things that you can’t do as good as you used to with your mind.”