The Pittsburgh Steelers have been able to keep their starting offensive line intact for a few seasons now and that’s really unheard of in today’s NFL. That said, keeping the starting five of Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert together at least one more season really seems unlikely with the 2019 offseason now underway for the team
While Villanueva, Pouncey and DeCastro will definitely all return in 2019, Foster, who’s current contract will be up in March, and Gilbert, who has missed a lot of playing time the past two seasons due to injuries and a suspension, might be moved on from for good between now and the start of the 2019 regular season. On Tuesday, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spoke about his offensive line and how it’s his hope that the entire group can stay together at least one more season.
“I’ve been spoiled to kind of have that same group up there,” Roethlisberger said on 93.7 The Fan. “I don’t think that happens very often in the NFL when you can keep all five guys together for a handful of years. And I think I’m the luckiest quarterback the NFL with that group. I think they’re the best in the business and I’m going to do everything I can [to keep them together]. I told Ramon this after the game that I’m going to talk to Coach [Tomlin] and do everything I can to get Ramon back. I think that he’s a mainstay. I don’t know if he missed a snap this year. And so he’s smart, he’s a leader on this team – him and Pouncey are thick as thieves and any of those guys, I would fight for any of them.
“And I’m not sure what’s going to happen with Gil [Gilbert], either. I know he’s got another year left, but I thought what Chuks [Chukwuma Okorafor] did this year, I thought what Matt [Feiler] did this year, was awesome. And we’ve got guys, [B.J.] Finney can always come in and play. So, that whole room is special. I pray that we can keep them all together.”
As I’ve previously written, Foster likely wants to re-sign with the Steelers and they likely would want that to happen as well. That said, Foster might want more money per season this time around and more guaranteed to boot. While he did play every offensive snap in 2018 after injuring a knee in training camp, he is about to turn 33 years of age so the Steelers need to be careful when it comes to contract negotiations with. Hopefully the two sides can come to an agreement of some sorts as Foster still likely has a few good games left in him.
As for Gilbert, while he’s currently under contract for the 2019 season, the fact that he’s missed so many games over the course of the last few years makes him hard to retain even with a scheduled base salary of less than $5 million. Additionally, the Steelers were able to get some decent play out of the two players who filled in at right tackle in place of Gilbert this past season in Matt Feiler and rookie Chukwuma Okorafor, both of whom will be back in 2019. On top of that, the Steelers will like;y want to give former fourth-round draft pick, tackle Jerald Hawkins, one last shot at a roster spot in 2019.
In addition to possibly not being able to retain all five of the team’s starting offensive linemen this season, the Steelers also might see the departure this offseason of the man that coaches that position group, Mike Munchak, as several teams with head coaching vacancies are reportedly interested in interviewing him. On Tuesday, Roethlisberger made it clear that while he hopes for the best when it comes to Munchak and his NFL future, he sure would hate to see him leave the Steelers.
“I feel like we should all stop talking so highly of him then maybe no one will want him and we can keep him to ourselves,” Roethlisberger joked. “But in all seriousness, he is such a special coach. Obviously, a guy that was a special player and so he brings that to the table. and a leader in that group, I always say they are the engine that drives this team, the linemen, and so, when they’re happy and they love playing for their coach, they play better.
“And just like Dave [DeCastro] said, he made him who he is and I’m sure all those guys will tell you the same thing, that they wouldn’t be who they are without him. I pray and hope we can keep him. I try and tease Munch all the time about staying and this, that and the other and I just hope, like I said, that we can keep them. But you understand that he’s got to do best for him and his family and there’d be no hard feelings if he left for too long, at least. Maybe a little bit early.”
With so many teams now wanting to interview Munchak to be their next head coach, it would be very surprising if he isn’t ultimately offered a job from one of them and the Denver Broncos, according to Roethlisberger, could potentially be the team to be the most concerned about as he supposedly has a daughter and maybe a grandchild that live in that city.
“Yeah, that’s the one that makes me nervous is the Denver job because of was family, Roethlisberger said. “So, I think the linemen, we’re all going to try and look for a way to get his family moved back here to Pittsburgh so he doesn’t want to leave.”