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Musical Chairs Ends With Ramon Foster At Left Guard In 2013


By Matthew Marczi

As I wrote last month, the Pittsburgh Steelers have undergone a turnaround among their starters the likes of which have not been seen in this century. In 2013, the Steelers will have a new starting wide receiver, running back, left tackle, right tackle, left guard, cornerback, outside linebacker, and nose tackle.

Now, it is not as though they were not prepared to lose these players in one way or another, whether through free agency, release, or simply not re-signing them. Nor is it the case that they do not have worthy candidates to fulfill those roles. It is just uncommon for such upheaval on this veteran team to occur all at once.

Perhaps the safest bet among all eight positions is the new offensive guard. In fact, it is simply an old guard in a new position. Ramon Foster started most of the season at right guard last year; however, that is only because then-rookie David DeCastro was injured in the preseason.

With DeCastro—who was supposed to be at right guard last year, and thus is not considered a new starter both in terms of projections and for the purposes of this article—back and healthy, Foster is now moving the left guard, where he finished up the year once DeCastro returned.

Foster will be replacing Willie Colon, who ended his third straight season on injured reserve; he also, of course, replaced him last season due to the injury, starting the last three games at left guard.

Of Foster’s 42 starts, eight of them have come at left guard, including the final three games of last season, which featured the interior of the offensive line as it will appear in 2013: from left to right, Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, and DeCastro.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect about Foster’s 2012 season, other than his continued durability, was the inconsistency with which he was surrounded. In his 13 games at right guard, he played with three different right tackles.

For the first five games, he partnered with Marcus Gilbert with whom he built a rapport last season, as they started most of the 2011 season as a duo on the right side. However, he sustained an injury in game five, which promoted Mike Adams to the starting lineup. The Steelers had their greatest success running the ball with this tandem, but Adams too suffered an injury that ended his season.

For the last five games (two of which featured Foster at right guard), Kelvin Beachum manned the right tackle spot. Considering the variety of partners that he had to deal with (not to mention three games with Doug Legursky at center), it is a wonder that there were not that many communication errors that resulted in pressure on the quarterback.

While Foster made some nice strides in pass protection in 2012, he has always been solid in run blocking, and the fact that he will be paired with Gilbert on the left side should bode well, as he has more experience working alongside him than anybody else on the roster.

The unknown factor facing all of the team’s linemen, of course, is how they will adapt to the addition of the outside zone blocking scheme to the offensive repertoire. In truth, Foster may be in for the roughest transition, as he may be fairly described as the least athletic lineman in the group.

The good news is that he already began to make strides in that area last season, where he was used to pull more often, and did so more effectively than in the past. While it was clearly not his strength, his familiarity with getting out in space should ease his adjustment into the new scheme.

While Foster does not play with the nasty, tone-setting demeanor that Colon brought to the position, he most certainly brings durability and consistency, and he does not get penalized nearly as often. Considering the relative cap savings (Foster’s new three-year, $6 million deal accounts for only $1.4 million against this year’s cap), the Steelers made the right decision, financially and schematically, in moving on from Colon and giving Foster a chance to prepare as a starter in the offseason for a change.

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About Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • dgh57

    It was a smart move on our part to resign this guy as it looks like we had no plans in bringing Starks or Colon back. You don’t let a player get away that has shown both durability and flexibility. While not the fleetest of foot I have heard he has lost some weight(he probably thought he needed to do so for this new ZBS) which if true may increase his mobility for this new ZBS we are implementing into our offense this year.

  • steeltown

    True True.. Foster is basically a cheaper Colon who actually stays healthy and does not get penalized, not to mention he’s also a converted RT who can kick out and play outside in a pinch.
    I am not worried about the interior, its the starters on the outside that concern me with their injury history and inconsistent play

  • steeltown

    Yep, I was concerned when the thinking was he would walk via FA.. our OL would be even more depleted.. and they would’ve then drafted OL which would’ve shaken up their draft board

  • VaDave

    I’m glad Foster was resigned. His value to the enterprise is far greater for positional flexibility than his ability in any one position. JMO. Before getting real excited about his move to LG, keep in mind, historically, we run a counter trap where he’s going to be expected to pull about 10 to 15 times a game. As Matthew stated in his article, this has not been the strongest part of his game.

  • steves

    As a Guard it is not hard to pull and actually it is the most funnest part to knock someone on the As*, who is not looking to be. Playing Guard and Tackle is almost interchangeable but with different blocking assignments. If a 3-4 D is in front of you, mostly you got for the LB, but with a 4-4 there is usually a D-Tackle on you and he is your man to blow away.

    Foster will do well on the line as a guard and he is one to stay in despite pain.

    Know the difference between pain and injury? Injury is a broken bone or torn muscle. Pain is anything less. Player can play through pain but need to see the Doc when injured.

  • emac2

    Wow. Steelers fans fawning over a player because he is flexible and durable? A stud to anchor our line who is also a bargain because no one else in the league would give him much more than a minimum deal.

    Is this the most solid of our 8 new starters because he has the lowest downside? When did that become the teambuilding modus operandi for the Steelers?

  • emac2

    An injury is a torn muscle or a broken bone but a ruptured kidney is pain?

    Playing Tackle and Guard is the same but for the different blocking assignments?

    Dude. Stop posting.

  • charles

    Starks was very durable and Ben held him in the highest esteem. That loss I do not understand. Tomlin et al must see something in the new guard.

  • charles

    Looks like the historical is history.

  • Randy Neff

    Colon was better from a talent perspective. Just ask Geno Atkins. Colon prior to injury was playing at a high level, after a rough start at a new position.

    Foster being back is a plus for this year. However I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t a new LG next year.

  • steeltown

    On a line that has not stayed healthy for 2-3yrs now, yes, I’ll fawn over a player that has been very durable and consistent, the fact that he brings versatility is just an added bonus…and I’ll always root for one that has worked his way from the bottom to the top

    I’m not sure he’s the “safest bet” of our new starters, but I guess time will prove that assessment right or wrong

  • emac2

    Thankfully you aren’t making personnel decisions. Durability has to be there as a baseline and the fact the team has been so injured lately can’t allow you to overlook the value of elite talent because health is enough.

  • steeltown

    Thankfully none of us are making personnel decisions.

    You cant have elite talent at every position, we have quite a few prospects with hopeful bright futures and a few high draft picks along the OL already that could entail big contracts in the near future.

    Personnel decision made by FO = Foster multi-yr deal

  • VaDave

    Steves,
    I’ve seen enough tape of Foster pulling. For some reason, the process looked a whole easier when Al Faneca did it, not to mention a whole lot more effective which is the point of the execise.

  • VaDave

    Good response. That could very well be.

  • SteelersDepot

    Congrats on the most idioic comment of the day.

  • dgh57

    I didn’t like seeing Starks go either but I guess the coaching staff thought that he didn’t fit this new ZBS as you have to be a more mobile OT to play in this scheme which Starks wasn’t. Gilbert played LT and played a lot of the outside ZBS in College so that was probably their thinking. My main concern with Gilbert is staying healthy and that’s when they will be questioning this move!

  • emac2

    Thanks Dave. I can’t let you win every day just because it’s your site.

    Any actual point you would care to contest or is name calling all you can muster.

  • SteelersDepot

    5 sacks allowed and just 3 QB hits over the course of the last two seasons along with solid run blocking says it all. Perhaps you should go troll elsewhere because that is exactly what you are doing here.

  • emac2

    at a rate appropriate for a long term back up for which he is best suited.

    Of course you can’t have elite talent at every level. But you have to be brave enough to recognize that non elite players are indeed non elite players and not act like someone who says that isn’t a fan or doesn’t like the player.

    Foster would be a perfect 6th lineman because of his versatility and salary. improving the line and the depth of the line is done best by signing someone better than Foster and bumping him into the back up role. The best thing would, of course, be to replace our best lineman but financial reality means we can probably have the most impact for our dollar finding someone better than Foster and sign them as the starter because we would get a better player for less money.

  • JohnnyV1

    Signing Ramon Foster was good. Letting Starks and Legursky walk was bad.

  • steeltown

    I wanted Starks back too.

    But in the end Starks wanted to start, now im not saying that he couldn’t or wouldn’t start for us in ’13 if he was on roster by beating out Gilbert but we were not going to pay him as a starter, we wanted to re-sign him for the minimum (again) so, he tested the market and I believe he got $2MIL from San Diego.. good for him, because the Steelers FO wasnt going to pay him that

  • cencalsteeler

    We have all been intrigued with watching how DeCastro and Adams develop. Starks was a solid tackle and seemed to be a favorite interviewee for reporters. Foster just quietly did his job the entire season. His stats speak volumes of his play and he deserves to be the starter. A quiet guard is a good guard, similar to a referee. At the end of the day, you don’t hear his name called means nothing more than he did his job. Colon received more recognition because he was always being called for holding. That, and I recall him dry humping a Bengal and that got him some air time, too.

  • dgh57

    The Steelers and Starks came to a impasse. One side(Starks) wanted to start and the other wanted to move on to a more younger, mobile LT that better fit the ZBS. We also probably felt it was time to start getting a return on our investment in Gilbert after all he was a 2nd rounder. Both sides were probably aware of each others stance so I’m not sure there was ever any dialog between the two. So I guess you can say we may both be right.

  • RASTA

    Brilliant move by our esteemed FO! Out with the slow and in with the young blood. Personally I think Beachum will end up beating Foster out in the preseason, as his perfect guard size and mobility, along with his well-documented climb up into the coaching staff’s comfort zone, will shine during training camp. Nothing against Foster, as I too think that he will be a great 6th lineman as well, and can also hopefully help tutor the young Ebernasty into the new young, penalty-free mean Colon mold that he seems to come from, and we will be strong at guard and backup guard for all of Big Ben’s remaining years. Go Steelers!

  • steves

    Thank you!

  • steves

    Have you ever played organized Football – I think NOT!

  • steves

    You got to remember,, Faneca was Al Pro which Foster may never be. When the Steelers had Fanica he was the captain of the O-Line and coached the guys as they played. He gave guys assignments and guided them. Little difference, I would say.

  • Ahmad

    I’ve heard that Foster has dropped some weight from last season so that should help with the transition to the outside zone.

  • VaDave

    Of course I realize Faneca was an all-pro and extremely talented. What I was trying to communicate is Foster is nowhere near as good, and if we are going to run this counter trap 12-15 times a game like we have over the last 20 years, it’s not going to be as effective. Charles had the best response, we may not be running it at all with Foster at LG.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Or they could simply run it both ways, and perhaps start favoring going to the left with DeCastro leading. After all, it has been the team’s intention for a couple of years now to become more ambidextrous rushing the ball.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I believe Foster is a worthy starter who could be on the line for more than a few teams around the league at either guard spot, or even right tackle. Remember, Foster signed his contract the day before free agency began, so nobody really even knows what his market could be. He will never be a Pro Bowler, but his strength is his consistency. Beachum has yet to show that, and I have a hard time believing that Beachum will even really be in the mix for a starting spot. I think the only thing that could even be considered a question along the line is where the two tackles will start, but even that appears to already be answered with Gilbert on the left. The OL seems to be in place already, and they can do more than merely get by with Foster.

  • VaDave

    That is true, hopefully they do become more balanced on which side of center they run. That said, I didn’t see a lot of DeCastro ( not that we saw a lot of him last year anyway) or Foster pulling to the left in 2012. No doubt DeCastro has the chops to play in space, but Foster running the old 34 counter pike… I have a hard time visualizing it.

  • charles

    I would like to add a comment about the elite or nonelite. When you look at the average lifespan of linemen, then you see they average about 4 years. This is the greatest opportunity to get value out of the draft. Draft AND play linemen in their first four years if they are elite by then we will know otherwise draft somemore. This is how you get the greatest impact from the draft and the lowest impact to the salary cap. This should be applicable to Oline AND to Dline. Will someone please give this to Mr. LeBeau?

  • charles

    Wish I could agree about Leggs.

  • dgh57

    That was DeCastro’s specialty pulling to the left at Stanford U. I’ve seen Pouncey pull also. So those two may be doing most of the pulling.

  • dgh57

    Some fans seem to think that if a player shows something as a backup that the next step is starting. They seem to forget that player needs to next show some consistency/durability over time.Then they start! Foster has has shown both and therefore he is starting and deservingly so.

  • Brendon Glad

    I think I like where they are heading. Hopefully they will have found the right coach finally to take the young line and make it a strength instead of something that makes me break things. There was a point last year where I felt pretty good about things. But it was brief. Health is critical.
    I thought Max Starks played one of his best seasons. So with him gone, besides health, Marcus Gilbert is the key. He was promising as a rookie…and disastrous last year. I have no idea what to expect from him in 2013. But all eyes will be on him. Including Ben’s and his offensive line teammates (to protect their own knees). If we can keep the “eyes” on him to just be us fans, then that will be major progress.

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