There are few relationships in sports that naturally breed a mutual fondness than that between the quarterback and his offensive linemen. It is the only relationship in sports in which one player, or group of players, is directly and primarily responsible for the literal protection of the other. Sure, running backs may occasionally buy some bling for their blockers, but quarterbacks are the sitting ducks in the pocket.
They’re the ones who get trips toe the lake house, and things like that. At least that’s what Ben Roethlisberger’s linemen get. And no lineman throughout his career had been through more with him than Ramon Foster, who at 34 years old retired last week after 11 seasons. Originally signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009—Roethlisberger sixth season—they have well over 100 games logged together.
“I knew it was coming, but it still hurts”, the quarterback told Ron Cook about the news of Foster’s retirement. “I don’t know if I can put into words what Ramon meant to me. Maybe it was because we were close enough in age and in years on the team. But he was special. To be undrafted and hardly miss a snap for 11 years?”.
That’s not entirely accurate. He has missed two games in three of the past four seasons. But since 2012, he has played in and started 119 games. He also started 14 of 15 games the year before that, and in 12 games in his first two seasons. He retires with 145 starts under his belt, among the top five all-time for linemen in team history.
“I just wish I could have been on the field with him last season for his last season”, Roethlisberger said. Of course, he missed all but six quarters of play in 2019 due to an elbow injury that required surgery. “One day soon, I’m going to find him and do something special for him. It was such an honor to be his teammate and his brother”.
That may take a while, given the coronavirus pandemic.
There is one regret that he will always have about Foster’s career, however. He never got him his ring. The Steelers won the Super Bowl the year before Foster came into the league. They reached the Super Bowl in his second season, but lost. They haven’t made it back since.
“It always bothers me when these guys leave without a Super Bowl. I take the blame for that. I look at it as my fault that we didn’t win it all for Ramon. He deserved to go out a champion”, Roethlisberger said. But he is still hopeful that he can get on for Maurkice Pouncey and others before they hang it up. 2020 may be their last best shot.