Pittsburgh Steelers former undrafted offensive lineman Ramon Foster has managed to find his way into the starting lineup, one way or another, since his rookie season in 2009, when he started four games in place of the injured Chris Kemoeatu.
In his second season, he took over the starting right guard spot late in the year and kept the job through the team’s last playoff run to date. Since then, he’s started at least 14 games every year, including 31 over the past two seasons—missing one game due to injury.
Granted, had it not been for David DeCastro’s injury in 2012, Foster’s career might have faced a different trajectory. But the front office opted to re-sign Foster rather than Willie Colon after that season, and for once he’s finally viewed by the team as a starter.
He’s slowly become more than that, however. He’s become a leader on the team, being the veteran among the starting offensive linemen (although a couple of backups have been in the league longer), having started more games than anybody else on the team.
As Teresa Varley wrote for the Steelers’ website yesterday, Foster shows that you don’t need to be a team captain to be a team leader. Her article includes an abundance of wonderful anecdotes about how he’s helped nurture this increasingly youthful roster.
According to Jarvis Jones, entering his second season, Foster is a father figure in the locker room to the younger players. “I don’t know how the older guys look at it”, he said. “But for me he is. He is well respected. One of the best personalities you can have. He is willing to do anything for you, from helping you with any situation, to talking”.
Jones also described how it was Foster who helped welcome him not only to the team, but to the city, when he was first drafted. “When I first got here he was one of the first people to take me in and show me the city, places to eat. He told me how I need to go about my day as far as preparation, how to take care of my body, all of those things”.
Another second-year player, undrafted defensive lineman Brian Arnfelt, took to heart Foster’s input as a player that goes up against him in practice. He lets him know when he puts in a good rep or needs to clean something up: “that’s huge to know what he sees from an offensive line perspective, what I can improve on, what he thinks I can do well. He has been a source of support for me”.
No event was more significant, however, than losing Maurkice Pouncey for the season last year. When Fernando Velasco was signed off the street, he leaned greatly on Foster to learn the offensive scheme, and it was Foster who tapped his leg to let him know when to snap, a practice that lasted through all of Velasco’s starts.
And the veteran lineman certainly is not ignorant of the role he’s been bestowed within the team. It’s something that he values and takes very seriously. Yet, according to him, it’s also just an extension of who he is.
You can’t just be a talker. If you are going to be a leader you have to do exactly as you are instructing the guys to do. That is one of my biggest things. I don’t just want to talk about it; I want to show them so they can follow my lead. The guys respect me and I respect them back. I think that is the biggest opponent for being a leader, having the respect of the guys that are around you that you are leading. It was a big step for me. People said I was a great leader, but that is just what I do. I am always trying to encourage guys, show them how it should be done and what is expected. I want to set the bar. Maybe what I am doing here, me and Pouncey are doing, is setting things up for offensive lines down the years.