Ramon Foster. Maurkice Pouncey. David DeCastro. That’s how they’ll line up Monday night against Miami, just as they’ve been doing for a long time.
Longer than anyone else, in fact.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for the ability to keep their front five together. Evaluate and retain, two hallmarks of the talent-finding and roster-building process. They’ve done that with all three of those names.
In Week 5 against Baltimore, DeCastro started his 100th career game, joining Pouncey and Foster in accomplishing that milestone. It made team history, the first time the Steelers have ever had three active linemen with 100+ starts. But you can apply it league-wide too.
Of the 27 active offensive linemen in football with triple digit starts, the Steelers are the only team starting three of them. Only five other clubs have a pair: Seattle, Atlanta, Oakland, Philadelphia, and the Giants. Nearly half the league, 13 teams, don’t have anyone at that benchmark.
Building a quality line is tough for two central reasons. A lack of talent coming from the college system. Quality players there may be even harder to find than quarterbacks. Spread systems makes it easy to hide talent and avoid diversifying skills. Offensive tackles in option heavy offenses rarely have to block defensive ends. Linemen don’t put their hand in the ground, splits are often larger, and schemes less varied.
The other problem is the issue faced regardless of position. Paying everyone and not letting talent hit free agency. Of the aforementioned 27 linemen with 100+ starts, only nine have played on one team their entire career. And three of those are Steelers. No other team has more than one.
It’s all been part of the front office’s decade long focus on revamping its offensive line to protect and prolong Ben Roethlisberger’s career. And we haven’t even mentioned Alejandro Villanueva’s 64 starts ofr Matt Feiler, in the building since 2015 before cracking the lineup full-time this season.
Those investments have come from different types of places. High draft picks in Pouncey and DeCastro. A UDFA signing in Foster. Signing Villanueva and Feiler when other teams gave up and developing them on the practice squad. Regardless of how they arrived, they’ve been coached up and retained all the same. Cherish it because with the way the NFL is structured, continuity like this doesn’t happen often.