All good things come to an end. And so it is with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ramon Foster.
While most expected this parting of the ways, Ramon Foster threw everyone a bit of a curve last week by announcing his retirement. Today we take time to step back, look at Ramon Foster’s Steelers career and the role he played during his time in Pittsburgh.
Ramon Foster, ever the class act and always willing to talk to the media, released this statement:
When the time comes, you just know, and now is the time for me to take a bow. I’ve made some friends for a lifetime, had some moments that I’ll never forget and seen some things I never thought I would because of this game. I’m glad to say I was a Steeler for life, and there is no other organization I would have rather played for in my career.
Ramon Foster’s retirement sets in motion a shakeup on the Steelers offensive line that has been remarkably stable for that last several seasons. With B.J. Finney having signed with the Seattle Seahawks in free agency, Foster’s slot will almost certainly be taken by moving Matt Feiler from tackle to guard, opening the way for either Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor to start at right tackle.
In a way, it is fitting that Ramon Foster’s departure will spark changes on the Steelers offensive line because Foster’s arrival, unhearded that it was, started the stabilization process.
Ramon Foster’s Steelers Career – From Transition to Transformation
When the book The History of the Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Line is written, Ramon Foster’s name won’t earn mention alongside guards from the Super Steelers like Sam Davis and Gerry Mullins. He won’t be seen in the same light as colorful figures like Craig Wolfley, nor will he be considered a peer of should be Hall of Famer Alan Faneca. Objectively speaking, Ramon Foster probably wasn’t as good as the talented, but deeply troubled Carlton Haselrig.
- But those omissions mask the role that Ramon Foster played authoring a critical transformation of the Steelers offensive line.
One fact that the “Mike Tomlin only won with Bill Cowher’s players” crowd conveniently ignores is that Tomlin didn’t enjoy continuity of Cowher’s offensive line. Jeff Hartings retired in 2006, and Tomlin enjoyed a one year rental from Alan Faneca. Marvel Smith and Kendall Simmons performed well in 2007, but both men’s bodies fell apart in 2008.
- You can best describe the Steelers strategy on offensive line at that point as “Plug and Patch.”
Opportunity would grant 15 minutes of fame to obscure players like Darnell Stapelton and Doug Legursky, who started in Super Bowl XLIII and Super Bowl XLV respectively.
Out of both necessity and choice, the Steelers would sign players, guys like Justin Hartwig, Chris Kemoeatu, Trai Essex and Max Starks to multi-year deals, only to cut them midway through the contract. Indeed, when the Steelers signed Willie Colon in 2011, La Toalla Terrible joked that the Steelers planned to cut him in two years.
- La Toalla Terrible got the last laugh, because the Steelers did in fact cut Colon in two years.
Ramon Foster, who arrived in Pittsburgh as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2009, and was very much a piece in that plug and patch offensive line strategy. Foster started four games as a rookie, then started another 8 in his second year including Super Bowl XLV.
- By the 2011 season, Ramon Foster was starting 14 of 15 games.
But injuries to both men allowed Foster to stake his claim as permanent starter, and since 2012 Ramon Foster has started 119 regular season and 7 playoff games for the Steelers. And during that time, the offensive line has transformed itself from being a perennial liability, to an area of undisputed strength. And make no mistake about it:
- Ramon Foster wasn’t simply present for that transition, he actively participated in authoring the the transformation.
And through it all, Ramon Foster has served as a source of stability, helping protect Ben Roethlisberger while opening holes for Rashard Mendenhall, Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams and James Conner. Through it all, Ramon Foster was a locker room leader, whose work ethic on the field and commitment to physical football set an example for all.
- That’s not a bad resume for an undrafted rookie free agent out of Tennessee.
Suffice to say, Ramon Foster will be missed as he beings his “Life’s Work.” Steel Curtain Rising thanks Ramon Foster for his service and wishes him the best.