Steelers guard Foster’s turn has come
After years of figuratively working behind the scenes on the
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line, Ramon Foster – at last – is
under the metaphorical bright lights.
Cameras from NFL Films shot Foster during training camp at Saint
Vincent College earlier this month. Foster, a fifth-year guard, and
rookie lineman Mike Golic, Jr., are starring in a series of
webisodes sponsored by a deodorant company.
In the past, Foster was merely out to make a name for himself by
working to impress enough to secure a roster spot or playing time.
It’s fitting that as he enters his fifth season assured of a
starting job for the first time, Foster’s star turn has
”That guy’s a celebrity, man,” affable Steelers center
Maurkice Pouncey quipped, before turning serious. ”He deserves it.
That guy’s been working his butt off for years before and he didn’t
get any (publicity) for it. Now he’s getting all of it.
”He deserves it all.”
Over the first four years of his career, Foster was used as
little more than a spare part by the Steelers. Judging by the
organization’s personnel decisions, Foster wasn’t just viewed as
replaceable – worse, he was indeed replaced. Repeatedly.
But Foster kept rising to the top – of the depth chart – anyway.
He’s started 42 of the 64 regular-season games Pittsburgh’s played
since signing him as an undrafted free agent from Tennessee during
the spring of 2009 and has finished the season in the starting
lineup each of the last four years. Foster was in the lineup at
right guard for each of the four postseason games the Steelers have
played since he joined the team, including the Super Bowl.
All that playing time hardly guaranteed Foster job security.
Foster went into the ensuing season’s training camp as anything
more than penciled in as a backup. Until now.
”You like to see a great story like that, somebody who came up
from being an undrafted free agent and busts his tail,” Steelers
tackle Marcus Gilbert said. ”He was a guy that (the organization)
didn’t have much faith in, but I think that they’ve grown on Ramon.
They can count on him and they know he’s one of the valuable guys
on the team. And durable.”
Foster has avoided injury throughout his career, and his tenure
has benefited via the injuries of others. During his rookie season,
he stepped in for Chris Kemoeatu when the latter was injured. The
following year, the Steelers turned to Foster twice – when Chris
Kemoeatu and, later, Trai Essex went down.
In 2011, Foster started an early season game at left guard in
place of an injured Kemoeatu and was in the lineup for the final 15
games (including playoffs) at right guard when Doug Legursky was
Last season, Foster likely wasn’t going to start until rookie
first-round pick David DeCastro sustained a knee injury during a
preseason game. By the time DeCastro was active again, veteran
Willie Colon was out, so Foster stayed in.
Finally, after four years of being a reliable starter even when
not officially a starter, Foster was rewarded in March when the
Steelers signed him to a three-year, $6 million contract and, by
extension, handed him the starting gig at left guard.
”It’s good that they trust me, but it goes along with the hard
work I’ve put in also over the years,” Foster said. ”So I don’t
take it for granted whatsoever and I’ve got to continue to work
each and every day at practice and in the games.”
That’s never been an issue for Foster, who was a three-year
starter at Tennessee. But he mostly played tackle there, partially
the reason he slipped through the cracks at the 2009 NFL draft.
Although he has filled in occasionally at tackle in Pittsburgh,
Foster, at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, has clearly found a home at
guard. And at 27, he’s the senior member of a projected starting
offensive line that also includes Pouncey (24), Gilbert (25),
DeCastro (23) and tackle Mike Adams (23).
Foster is a jovial, outgoing type, so his vocal leadership comes
naturally. Teammates say his work ethic provides a solid example
for younger players, too. He insists that part of his persona won’t
leave – even now that he’s finally earned the respect of the
organization in the form of a guaranteed spot in the lineup.
”Still got the chip on my shoulder, man,” he said. ”That’s
not going to leave. That’s just been my mentality and it’s been
that way for the last four years. Going into this year, it hasn’t
been much different.
”Just trying to stay consistent in that department.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org