Ramon Foster has been something of a player-scout. Someone with a good judge for talent. He singled out Mike Hilton years ago and now he’s the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting slot corner. He identified Fred Johnson as a sleeper back in the spring. Johnson now has the inside track to make the 53 man roster. And in a recent interview with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews, Foster pointed to Diontae Johnson as the player he has his eye on and someone he’s taken under his wing.
“Diontae,” Foster said. “Our young receiver. I’m drawn to that kid. I was just talking to him on the practice field. Just like to check in on him. I think he’s going to be a special talent here. He’s got his head on right. He’s got a lot to prove. Small school a guy, a higher draft pick. He’s wanting to leave a mark. He’s a guy I’m high on right now.”
In leading up to the question, Matthews pointed to Maurkice Pouncey serving as a mentor to Zach Gentry and helping him adjust to the NFL.
That’s the benefit of having a strong locker room with several leaders. There’s mentors to go around. The burden isn’t just on a veteran receiver to look after a younger one, though to be clear, I’m sure that happens. Donte Moncrief has proven to be a valuable resource as much off the field as he’s expected to be on it. But when you have a young room like wide receiver, or in Gentry’s case, at tight end, it’s nice to see veterans from more established positions take on that role.
And that’s who Foster and Pouncey have been for a long time. They’re two of the longest tenured players on team, obviously still trailing Ben Roethlisberger, but have made big impacts in the locker room. Past NFL players have said coaches only “lose” the locker room when they lose the trust of the veterans and Mike Tomlin has clearly always had the backing of Foster and Pouncey.
Johnson, more than some of the other rookies, could use that mentorship to get through his first NFL preseason. He’s young, declaring early and is supposed to be a senior at Toledo right now. Already, he’s dealt through numerous, nagging injuries that have limited his playing time including a current one that leaves his status for Sunday night uncertain. It’s important for someone to show him the way, how to get your body right, and a sounding board for those predictable tough moments when things don’t go as planned.
His NFL future remains bright and having guys like Foster to support him is his best chance of realizing that talent.