Putting together a team is by no means solely nor primarily about what you are able to add to the group year in and year out. More than anything, it’s about the pieces that you are able to keep together for a period of years, acquiring talent and giving them the structure to develop together into a cohesive unit.
By and large, the Pittsburgh Steelers do this better than most, and they return among the most snaps from the 2019 season as they head into this year, but they have still lost some significant players from a year ago, some of whom have been with the team for a while, like Ramon Foster, Javon Hargrave, Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo, and others.
Now that we’ve introduced you to all of the new faces that the Steelers have added to the team since the end of last season, it’s time to take stock of who is gone since then, and what their departure—whether by the team’s will or not—will impact their success or failure in 2020 and beyond.
Player: G Ramon Foster
Years Played: 11 (11 in Pittsburgh)
Snaps Played: 822 (9536 career)
The oldest and longest-tenured player on the roster other than Ben Roethlisberger, Ramon Foster was a staple of the Steelers for over a decade, ultimately logging 145 career starts in the regular season in 160 games over an 11-year career.
Originally signed as a college free agent out of Tennessee, he quickly surpassed then-rookie third-round pick Kraig Urbik as the team’s top backup guard, staring four games in 2009 as a fellow rookie with Chris Kemoeatu missing time.
He would go back and forth in the starting lineup in 2010 before ultimately taking a firmer hold on the job (then at right guard in 2011, starting 14 games that year. David DeCastro’s drafting seemed to doom him to demotion in 2012, but the first-round pick’s preseason injury gave him a reprieve. He started at right guard for 13 games until DeCastro was ready, then moved over to left guard after Willie Colon was injured, and he would play there for the rest of his career.
Although he never reached the status of Pro Bowler, Foster’s play was long heralded within the locker room and the organization as a whole, and he was widely respected both inside the club and out, winning media awards and being elected as the team’s union representative.
His play on the field may have declined some by the time he chose to retire this offseason—a good timing, considering the current affairs—but the team also lost a lot of leadership with him gone, and then having B.J. Finney leave in free agency was a double blow.
But the Steelers were already preparing, giving Matt Feiler a chance to start one game in Foster’s place last season when he missed a game due to injury. Feiler is now projected to be the starting left guard, with Stefen Wisniewski signed in free agency as a veteran reserve. Rookie Kevin Dotson, now dealing with a knee injury, was also drafted in the fourth round to shore up the group.