When it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room, or at least as far as the offensive line coach, eighth-year veteran Ramon Foster is the old, wise sage. While new free agent tackle Ryan Harris is now the oldest player in the room, Foster has been here far longer, originally being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009, and having turned 30 in January.
It is safe to say, then, that Foster has seen pretty much everything that might have needed to be seen in that span of seven years to understand how far this offensive line has come. Foster replaced Chris Kemoeatu for several games during his rookie season, lining up next to Justin Hartwig at center, if you need to be reminded.
And for his money—he signed a three-year contract before free agency began to stay in Pittsburgh—he believes that this is as good as it has gotten. “No disrespect to the guys before us”, he told Teresa Varley for the team’s website, “but the depth, experience and camaradie that we have right now, the only thing that is lacking with us from the offensive lines before us is a Super Bowl ring”.
The only player in that locker room from the offensive line with a ring is actually Harris, how just won the Super Bowl as the starting left tackle for the Broncos. Harris, according to Foster, said that “it’s fun to be around” in the Steelers’ line meeting rooms.
The starting left guard, of course, came in one year too late to experience the last Steelers line who knows what it’s like to hoist the Lombardi trophy—and to laugh, if you recall Ben Roethlisberger’s jab after their victory at the critics of his protectors.
The line has seen a major overhaul since then, with nobody remaining. Center Maurkice Pouncey was drafted a year after Foster joined the team, and has seen gone to four Pro Bowls. He has missed two of the past three seasons due to injury, but he is only turning 27.
The following year saw the addition of starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who truly came into his own last year, and David DeCastro followed the year after. He received All-Pro accolades in 2015, where he hopes to repeat, this time with teammates Pouncey and Gilbert.
The group was completed with the addition of former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who has gone down a winding road to land as the starting left tackle for the Steelers. He will battle the veteran Harris to assure that he maintains that spot on the line, but the fact that there is competition only makes the line better at that spot.
The offensive line did remarkably well last season, allowing only 33 sacks on nearly 600 pass attempts and blocking for a 4.4-yard rushing average for one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league, despite seeing their quarterback go down for a considerable amount of time.
No doubt every member of that line is hungry to get that ring, even Harris, who just got his. Foster in particular isn’t getting any younger, now in his 30s, and perhaps with the least amount of time left in the starting lineup. The clock is ticking, but 2016 seems as good a year as any for them to get there.