We’re back breaking down the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line, highlighting – or rather, lowlighting – the sacks allowed by each lineman over the course of 2014. After breaking down the team’s tackles, we’re turning our attention to the guards, starting with left guard Ramon Foster.
Foster allowed 3.5 sacks in 2014 compared to three in 2013. We’ll take another look at those today. Again, this doesn’t depict an overall player profile, but highlights a couple areas that could be improved on.
The first is a half sack allowed in Week One against the Cleveland Browns. Linebacker Christian Kirksey (#58) shoots through the “B” gap. Foster is late to pick it up, distracted by DE Billy Winn, and is late sliding laterally to reach the midpoint of Kirksey. Instead, he uses his hands before his feet, lunges, whiffs, and Kirksey blows on by.
It seems likely Kirksey was Foster’s responsibility, and not say, Le’Veon Bell, given the fact Bell runs to the closed side “A” gap on the snap. That is the runner’s responsibility with Kirksey being Foster’s.
Week Seven versus the Houston Texans was by far Foster’s most difficult, giving up two during primetime football.
The frustrating thing is both sacks resulted from tackle/end stunts.
On the first, Foster never even recognizes the stunt, failing to disengage the penetrator in order to slide and pick up the looping EMOL. It results in a third down sack with the Steelers near midfield, ending the drive.
The player recording the sack was Whitney Mercilus his first sack of the entire season, spanning 340 snaps.
Similar happening on the second one, again on third down and with the Steelers on the Texans’ 25. Foster sees the looper this time but is unable to move laterally to get square to him. Again, it’s Mercilus on the sack, his second of the game after failing to register one in his first six games. That really stung.
The next is less egregious, another half sack given up against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9. The Steelers give Matt Spaeth the unfortunate duty of going against Pernell McPhee and seeing him failing, Kelvin Beachum slides over in an attempt to help. It leaves Foster one-on-one against Haloti Ngata, who sheds and helps bring Ben Roethlisberger down.
Looking at the clip again, you get the feeling Foster thought he still had help, searching down the line for a linebacker, and it’s too late to recover once he realizes Beachum has departed.
The last one follows the similar pattern. Credit goes to the Tennessee Titans’ blitz package for poking holes in the Steelers’ protection, but Foster is again late at recognizing the linebacker blitzing to his outside shoulder, then simply lacks the agility to slide and pick it up. He gets a piece of him, but certainly not enough, and it contributes in the sack.
This is especially painful given the fact on this play, Martavis Bryant was streaking down the seam with a two step advantage on his defender. Chance for a splash play, probably even a touchdown, missed.
I wonder out loud about the effectiveness of communication between Beachum and Foster. The lack of stunt recognition could highlight an issue, the product of two players still gelling together. And though it’s pretty clear to fans, this reaffirms his inability to recover from his mistakes when asked to move laterally.
Foster has been a consistent, stabliziing force who has never gotten the credit he deserves; an undrafted free agent surrounded by high round picks, sans Beachum. He’s a high character individual and leader in the locker room, intangibles I – from mother’s basement – can’t quantify.