Over the course of the past two days, the Pittsburgh Steelers have adjusted the contract status of three of their top five offensive linemen, most recently trading away the contract of Marcus Gilbert at right tackle, shipping him off to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for a sixth-round pick.
The day prior to that, however, they worked out a two-year contract extension for center Maurkice Pouncey. And at the same time, they announced that they had re-signed pending free agent left guard Ramon Foster. It’s quite possible that Pouncey was more excited by that news than about his extension.
“It means the world to me” that Foster is going to remain in Pittsburgh, presumably through the end of his career, he told the team’s website yesterday. “That was my whole big thing in the offseason, through all the free agent stuff, was bringing Ramon back, how much he means to the team. How much he means to the offensive unit. Especially me”.
Foster is literally one of two players on the team who have more experience on the Steelers’ roster than does Pouncey, the other being quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and it’s no surprise that those are two of the perhaps three people he is closest with.
The other would be Gilbert, with whom he played and forced a very close relationship in college while with the Florida Gators. I’m guessing that Pouncey’s comments to the team’s website were made before it was revealed that they were going to move his friend. So one good friend stays, but another goes. Mixed emotions.
Still, the bond with Foster is a big one. Foster was an undrafted free agent in 2009, but in spite of that, he was already making starts as a rookie. “He is the one who brought me under his wing”, the following year in 2010 during his own rookie season, Pouncey said.
“He picked me up, took me everywhere I needed. We built this special relationship. I don’t even know what we call it anymore, brothers, family. I really appreciate the Steelers doing that. Hopefully we can carry on this journey together”.
The core of Foster, Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Alejandro Villanueva has now been together since 2014, with Villanueva having been on the practice squad that year. They have been full-time starters together for the past four seasons in an unrivaled continuity, which will welcome a new full-time member at right tackle in 2019.
“No one can ever coach, no one can try to put together something”, he said of the chemistry and camaraderie of a great offensive line. “It happens naturally. It’s a special group. We have a lot of great personalities, a tight brotherhood, and a tight bond. We are a tighter group than anyone can know. Hopefully we can keep going forward”.
Of course the reality is that they are moving into the twilight years. Foster is already 33, while Villanueva turned 30 in September and Pouncey will hit 30 in July. DeCastro is the youngest of that quartet, having turned 29 in January. But now all of them are under contract through at least 2020.