You may be reading a lot about Ramon Foster in the coming days. At the very least, you should be. It seems as though everybody who has ever covered him as a professional has come away impressed with the now former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, who has been a staple of the organization for over a decade. He announced his retirement yesterday after a successful 11-year career.
And that started as an undrafted offensive tackle out of Tennessee. The Big Ragu ran a 5.66 40-yard dash with a 7.96-second three-cone, but suffice it to say his athletic numbers never mattered in his career. He defied the odds, making the initial 53-man roster as a college free agent, and never looked back.
While it would take him until his fifth season to lock down a full-time starting job, Foster had already more than proven himself over the course of his first four seasons, starting in 42 of the 57 games in which he played during that span. He would go on to start another 103 games over the course of his final seven seasons, bringing his total to 145 career starts in 160 games played.
That is the fifth-most starts all-time by a Steelers lineman, just edging out Tunch Ilkin by two games. The only players ahead of him? A truly extraordinary list: Mike Webster (194 [217 total]); Dermontti Dawson (181); Alan Faneca (153 [201 total]); and Ray Mansfield (163), one of the most underrated linemen in team history.
And then there’s Foster. Right behind Mansfield in games started, and perhaps right above him in terms of being underrated. He spent much of his career playing with a trio of multiple-time Pro Bowlers. A guy like Maurkice Pouncey, perhaps even David DeCastro, may some day join Webster and Dawson (and soon Faneca) in the Hall of Fame, before all is said and done.
Foster is never going to have the honor of having his bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That doesn’t mean that he hadn’t had one hell of a career. Along with Pouncey, he was the heart and soul of an offensive line that saw huge ups and downs over the years, but ended on one of the greatest six-year stretches by an offensive line group that you’ll see in history. And he was a fundamental part of that.
This is not even to speak of the person that he is. There is a reason that he was the Steelers’ union representative, a winner of The Chief Award, and one of the first people every single reporter in the know always turned to to gain player perspective whenever anything—Steelers-related or otherwise—came up.
I would say that he is going to be missed, but my hope is he isn’t going anywhere. I imagine he is still going to find ways to be a presence for this team, and will have plenty of rooting interest as he watches some of his closest friends in the world in 2020 and beyond.
His retirement is also a minor personal blow. Not only was he my birthday buddy (January 7, albeit one year later than him), but with his retirement, there is now only one active Steeler who is still older than me: Ben Roethlisberger. At least Kevin Colbert still sees me as a kid.