Pittsburgh Steelers starting left guard Ramon Foster has never been the perfect lineman, nor will he ever be. While he has the size of a tackle, he has the footwork of a guard, and that is where he has found his home in the NFL despite the fact that the majority of his playing experience at the collegiate level came at right tackle.
Despite the fact that he has managed to carve out a nice six-year career for himself thus far after being undrafted out of Tennessee back in 2009, including 71 starts in 86 career games, there seems to be more and more discussion of late about finding his replacement.
The talk is certainly not altogether illegitimate by any means. While 29 is not old even by offensive line standards, he is the oldest starter on the line, and the third-oldest on the offense as a whole. It would be logical for his name to come up during the subject of swapping parts.
More pertinent is the fact that his lack of athleticism in comparison to the rest of the starters limits the versatility of the blocking schemes that offensive line coach Mike Munchak likes to run. We have years’ worth of tape watching him attempt to pull, which has been a basic staple of the team’s blocking philosophy for generations, which makes it clear that he is not ideally suited to the task.
But that is a far cry from saying that he is not a starting-caliber offensive lineman, even if his less than ideal agility somewhat truncates the variety of the line’s blocking schemes. It’s also a far cry from saying that there is actually a legitimate contender already in place that can knock him out of the starting lineup.
The Steelers failed to address the offensive line in the 2015 NFL Draft, and quickly lost the one lineman that they drafted in the fifth round the year prior after losing him to waivers when they released him to make room, hoping to put him on the practice squad.
The current contenders consist primary of undrafted free agents, mostly rookies, but the group also includes Chris Hubbard, who was on the roster last season, playing just a handful of mostly meaningless snaps.
Cody Wallace, the game day interior reserve lineman, is not only older than Foster is already, but also showed himself to be more of a center than a guard when he started two games in place of Foster early last year.
The veteran starter is in the final year of his contract, but I would be surprised if he does not get re-signed after this season. I also fully expect him to hold down his starting job this year, and there is a reasonable chance that he will continue to start beyond 2015.
Finding a solid lineman with a wealth of starting experience and unimpeachable character and leadership qualities off the field is not a common commodity. I do believe that most people recognize many of Foster’s qualities, even as they slowly nudge him out of the starting lineup, but I also believe that he is more than capable of continuing in his current role for seasons to come.