Veteran Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster is entering his seventh season in 2015, the most by any starting offensive lineman on the team. His age 29 season will see him complete a three-year contract that will make him a free agent in 2016 if the team does not extend him by the start of the regular season.
He seems to be in somewhat of an interesting position for somebody who has played in 86 games in six seasons with 71 starts, including 59 over the last four seasons. After all, there seem to be many—outside of the organization, at least—who want to replace the former undrafted free agent.
Admittedly, Foster had a bit of a down year in 2014, in my estimation of his play over the course of the past few years. But last year was also a turbulent time in the man’s life, far beyond just the early season ankle injury that caused him to miss two games and dogged him for a while thereafter.
Foster lost his mother around the time training camp was starting last summer, and, as anybody who has lost a parent at a relatively early age knows, that is a burden that you bear for far longer than just one football season. But no doubt the immediate turmoil is greatest in the months that follow such a loss.
The Steelers’ new running back, DeAngelo Williams, also lost his mother last year, and some Carolina beat writers have held the belief that it affected his play, at least to some degree, during the season. I suspect that this would be true for just about any player.
The pertinent question, though, is how Foster will be able to play in 2015, and how that relates to whether or not he will continue to play for the Steelers beyond that. As I mentioned earlier, he also had an ankle injury to contend with that he suffered in the second game of the season as well.
Foster sat out the next two games, and he seemed to favor his injured ankle in subsequent contests, enough for me to believe that he was not playing at 100 percent for a reasonable portion of the year.
While his size prevents him from accomplishing some of the more athletic assignments that guards are often asked to do with meaningful regularity, Foster has shown, particularly in 2013, that his consistency and intelligence as a pass protector can make him a valuable asset for an offensive line looking to keep clean the jersey of a franchise quarterback who likes to hold on to the ball.
With Maurkice Pouncey injured that year, Foster was easily the Steelers’ most consistent offensive lineman, and perhaps the best overall, though David DeCastro had the most dominant individual performances.
The left guard also brings intangibles with him that cannot be quantified. He is a leader in the locker room, and the other linemen gravitate toward him. He is also a bit of a player ambassador between the locker room and the media.
But nothing is more important than what he does on the field. Can he stay healthy and return to the consistency that he showed in 2013? If he does, then I certainly think that he deserves a third contract with modest compensation in 2016, even if the Steelers bring in competition for his starting job. After all, he would make the perfect depth player in the twilight years of his career as a swing guard/tackle combination.