From the sounds of it, Pittsburgh Steelers veteran offensive lineman Ramon Foster knows pretty much that the 2018 season is going to be his last with the team. In his 10th season, at the age of 32, playing on the final year of a low-value contract, and on a roster with two younger capable players at his position, and watching each of his younger fellow linemen get paid, he fully intends to take advantage of the open market in 2019.
And perhaps one of the reasons he is committed to doing that during his third opportunity to his unrestricted free agency—bypassing doing so the first two times—is because he realized just how close he came this summer to not playing again.
Early in training camp, Foster suffered what proved to be a comparatively minor injury, a small tear in his knee, but he told Ron Cook that he was “two inches” away from a serious tear. “That’s how close I was to being done”, he said.
“I’ve had a thumb surgery and a toe surgery, but those were minor offseason stuff. That was the first real injury that I’ve had. I didn’t know how bad it was at the time. I was just thinking, ‘not like this. It can’t end like this’”.
Foster signed with the Steelers as a college free agent out of Tennessee following the 2009 NFL Draft. He dressed for 14 games as a rookie, starting four due to injuries, chosen to play over third-round rookie Kraig Urbik, whom he would cost a roster spot a year later.
He would go on to make at least eight starts every year since, including eight of the 12 games he dressed for in the 2010 regular season, for which he was also the starter at right guard during the postseason, including the Super Bowl—a loss.
Since then, he has started all but one game for which he has dressed, and is in his sixth year as an unquestioned full-timer, having now started 122 of 137 career games played. That includes the seven games the Steelers have played this season, remarkable considering how close he came to tearing up his knee.
Had he done so, who knows what would have happened. He may have ended up just calling it a career. Instead, he is playing some of the best football of his life while helping to power one of the top five offenses in the NFL.
While the Steelers may have B.J. Finney and Matt Feiler waiting in the wings, the old reliable veteran continues to play above them for good reason. It may not work out financially and pragmatically between the two sides next offseason, which will be a shame, but that will make his now decade-long career no less spectacular.