The Pittsburgh Steelers have parted ways with a number of aging talents that epitomized success in the community during the height of their careers. While their on-field assets may have diminished over the years, however, one should not underestimate the ripple effect that their departures could have within the locker room.
While the concepts of camaraderie and leadership may be somewhat elusive when it comes to the team chemistry of a sports team, there is no doubt some truth to the idea that these qualities help build a winning team, especially when it comes to a game as interconnected with one another as is football.
The last several offseasons have seen some quality championship characters exit stage right, and their vacant lockers no doubt diminished the overall character of the room as a whole. Just recently, the team saw both Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu retire, even if their departures were already in the plans for this spring.
The question now becomes identifying who the new locker room leaders are, both now and in the future. I believe we do have some immediate answers, with a few waiting to be developed in the coming years, so let’s get to know some of these men who are leading the locker room these days for the Steelers.
While center Maurkice Pouncey may be the decorated and respected member of the offensive line around the league, when it comes to how things are run within the team itself, Ramon Foster has a lot to do with leading the offensive line and acting as a conduit through the media for his team.
When all is said and done, Foster is perhaps the least respected member of the Steelers’ offensive line with respect to consideration from the rest of the NFL. With three draft picks in the first two rounds starting on the line and the left tackle—a premium position—slowly earning accolades of his own, the former undrafted free agent is lacking in recognition.
It is, in a way, the story of his career. Coming in during the 2009 season, it was not until 2013 that he was ever actually regarded as the starter. He always found his way into the starting lineup either through injury or benching ahead of him, and yet he accumulated a wealth of starting experience before ever being one in the offseason process.
His chance to be the starter came in 2013, and with it came a more prominent role both on and off the field. He became the veteran in the offensive line meeting room, and his soft-spoken but honest demeanor helped make him a favorite with the media.
But he played an even bigger role than anticipated that season after Pouncey was lost for the year. Suddenly it was up to Foster to help coach along the journeyman centers that would be starting for the Steelers for the remainder of that year. He was by far the most veteran presence on that starting line.
While Foster had a bit of a rough season on the field, and a much worse one off the field after losing his mother, he remains a valuable asset both in-game and in the locker room, where he is seen as one of the people that teammates can turn to for any issue.