You know why I loathe the term, “camp body?”
Ramon Foster is why.
In 2009, I’m sure most fans considered him as such. He was a rookie undrafted free agent. A body, an afterthought. Someone filling space, maybe getting his name called in the preseason finale.
That didn’t happen. Instead, Foster enjoyed a terrific 11 year career. In total, he started 145 games. That’s the second most by any undrafted player in Steelers history, just 15 shy of Donnie Shell’s record. Foster certainly won’t join Shell in the Hall of Fame someday but he’s more than worthy of a spot in Steelers’ greatness.
Foster was all the things you’ll here about the next few days. Steady. Consistent. Durable. But he wasn’t just a product of longevity, a middling player sticking around out of sheer inertia. He was an excellent guard; at his best moments, Pro Bowl worthy, even if a lack of name recognition meant he’d never get the invite.
He began his career like so many Steelers’ linemen who’ve climbed the ladder. A versatile swingman, capable of playing tackle or guard, just as he did in college at Tennessee. Eventually, he’d settle in at left guard and from 2011 to 2019, started at least 14 games each season.
Really, he was the changing of the guard among the offensive line. The Super Bowl win over Arizona served as something of a wake-up call to address the front five. To go from the mess that was guys like Darnell Stapleton, Justin Hartwig, and Chris Kemoeatu with Max Starks trying to protect Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside in an increasingly pass happy league.
Foster was the first part of the turnover followed by investments in Maurkice Pouncey in 2010, Marcus Gilbert in 2011, and David DeCastro in 2012. Obviously, Foster wasn’t exactly part of that plan but he earned his way in and cemented his role.
Whenever his contract was up, he took below-market deals to stay in Pittsburgh. I don’t know if the intent was to keep the rest of the group but there’s no doubt his smaller deals helped the team retain and re-sign Pouncey, Gilbert, and DeCastro.
It’s hard for an offensive linemen to have highlight reel plays. The ones they get remembered for are usually lowlights. I’ll never forget Jonathan Scott’s butt block (that alone compelled the team to get serious about its o-line, I’m convinced). But Foster has an all-time moment.
First quarter against the Baltimore Ravens, Week 16, 2016. Power run with Le’Veon Bell off the right side. Foster pulls right to left, squares up linebacker CJ Mosley – titan of the Ravens’ defense – and absolutely steamrolls him into the ground.
That set the tone for the day. Pittsburgh rushed for over 120 yards, the Steelers went on to win (yes, that was the Antonio Brown Immaculate Extension game) and take the North.
Foster didn’t just make an impact on the field, though that was where it was most obvious. He was a leader in that locker room, especially recently, when the offense became younger and at times, fractured. Part of the veteran group of linemen, a tight relationship with Roethlisberger, and at the end of his career, voted the team’s union rep.
He was the guy media flocked to after games. Win or lose, especially after losses, he was the one who’d speak with reporters, providing cover for other guys who didn’t want cameras in their face. In Latrobe, he was the guy who led the stretch line, calling out a teammate’s name, “Tuuuuuuitttt” was a daily shoutout, and it’s not a stretch to say that literally every teammate, past or present, liked the dude. Check out the support he got in announcing his retirement on Instagram.
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) March 16, 2020
Foster is the player who proves it doesn’t matter where you start. You can be the longest of long shots, the “camp body.” If you’re a talented player with the right work ethic, you can make it in the NFL. He had both.
Not only did he make it, he thrived and showed what it means to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. If his playing days are any indication, his future getting on with “life’s work” is awfully bright.