The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.
Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the optimist’s take on the following question.
Question: Will Ramon Foster close out his current contract as a starter for the Steelers in 2018?
Former undrafted free agent lineman Ramon Foster, originally joining the Steelers in 2009, just signed his second three-year contract with the team after completing his first such contract, during which he for the first time in his career was the unquestioned starter throughout the offseason process.
Throughout the first four seasons of his career, in spite of the fact that he ended up logging a significant number of playing time, and starts, he never entered the process as a starter. In spite of the fact that he started 16 games in 2012, for example, he was going to be a reserve until David DeCastro suffered a torn MCL in the preseason and missed the first 13 games. Foster started in his place and then moved to left guard after Willie Colon was injured, starting the final three games, and all but a couple since, at left guard.
Will he start another three seasons there? Even if it seems at times that the team might be eager to find a viable replacement for him—many have claimed sources who cite the team’s desire for greater mobility at the position—Foster is one of those players who just never goes away.
And more importantly, aside from a rocky and tumultuous 2014 season, his play on the field has been about as consistent as anybody else’s along the Steelers’ line, and, quite frankly, his contributions have been consistently undervalued by many.
He was instrumental in easing the team’s transition at left tackle to Alejandro Villanueva due to injury mid-season last year. And I don’t believe anybody has worked alongside a wider variety of alignments in his tenure with the team than he has, playing key roles in identification and signaling when Maurkice Pouncey has been out—and even when he hasn’t.
He is a recognized leader inside and outside of the locker room, a consistent presence, and more importantly, there are no signs of his slowing down in any way. In fact, the 2015 season was, if not his best season yet, then his second-best, behind his 2013 performance, during which he was the team’s best lineman.
Foster is the sort of veteran who knows what he has to do off the field in order to maintain himself on the field. His intelligence and technical strengths help him curb the aging gap of diminished abilities. But his game has never been predicated on phenomenal athleticism. His success has come through hard work and study, and those traits don’t dwindle in your early 30s.