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 pessimist’s take on the following question.
Question: Will Ramon Foster close out his current contract as a starter for the Steelers in 2018?
Ramon Foster is slated to log his 100th start sometime late in the 2016 season, provided that he remains healthy all year, as he did last season. But one might be inclined to wonder how many more starts are in his future beyond that.
Already having turned 30 earlier this year, it is true that he has long defied the odds, starting with making the team’s 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent and getting the starting nod as an injury fill-in over more pedigreed reserve options.
Ever since then, he has regularly found himself in the starting lineup, for the next three seasons due to circumstances surrounding him involving injuries, as he tended to be the last man standing. It wasn’t until the start of his recently expired three-year contract beginning in 2013 that he was ever seen as the clear starter.
That is the role he will serve in 2016 after re-upping on another three-year contract that includes a moderate pay increase, yet still a low value for a starting lineman with several years of accrued experience.
Foster likely knows that he is and has always been the sort of player viewed as on the cusp, and never takes his roster spot, let alone his starting job, for granted, considering where he has come from. Particularly with the Steelers, he does not have the athleticism that the team has been gravitating toward in recent years along their line, with even Marcus Gilbert significantly trimming down.
That fact, combined with his age and his potential value as a reserve player, weigh in the favor of the argument that he will not be a starting offensive lineman by the time his contract expires by the end of which he will be turning 33.
Though it’s certainly not unheard of for linemen to play at a high level into their mid-30s, the Steelers are likely to be looking at their options in the very near future, regardless of how much money they have invested in the line already.
No expense is to be spared when it comes to protecting Ben Roethlisberger in the twilight of his career, as the thinking seems to go. If the value is there in the draft, or in free agency, it’s a very real possibility that we see Foster entering competition for his job as early as next season.