The Pittsburgh Steelers took care of one of their biggest items on their free agency to-do list when they were able to work out a new three-year agreement with left guard Ramon Foster on the day prior to the start of the new league year, which ties him to the team through the 2018 season.
Foster, originally signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2009, just completed a three-year contract that he signed prior to the start of the new league year in 2013, during which he operated as a starting lineman throughout the entire offseason process for the first time over the course of the past three years. His previous starting experience had regularly been tied to injuries.
There was some uncertainty as to whether or not Pittsburgh would be able to retain the lineman, who had solidified his stature over the course of the past four seasons, starting 61 games in that span, and the relatively modest terms of the contract that he ended up signing were greeted as a welcome surprise by many.
Part of the arrangement can be credited simply to the working relationship that the two sides have built over the course of the past seven years, with each party understanding both their own value and the value that the other side brings to their respective interests.
This was the sentiment expressed by Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert yesterday, speaking about the various offseason moves that took place along the offensive line through the first week or so of the free agency period.
Speaking to reporters, Colbert said that Foster “probably understood what was out there for him, and he also understood our desire to keep him”. While there have been no mentions of what his market value may have been—which is not that surprising considering that he never formally hit the open market—the above suggests that there was mutual desire to work something out together.
“Ramon is a very valuable part of the intangibles within our team”, the general manager said. “He is one of our respected leaders. We recognize that. Plus, he’s coming off probably his best season in recent years”.
Over recent years, Foster has grown into a common presence in the locker room as well as in the offensive line meeting room, and has also been the mouthpiece for the club as a liaison with reporters, being recognized as such this past offseason.
Colbert also touched upon another crucial aspect of his value, noting that “Ramon was a big part of keeping that unit together when we did suffer injuries. We value that probably more than other teams that didn’t know his intangibles”.
Not only did Foster help stabilize a quality unit with the loss of two starters—both linemen flanking him in the lineup—he did so twice, also guiding an ad hoc line through a tumultuous 2013 campaign when Maurkice Pouncey was injured eight offensive snaps into the season.
Foster and the Steelers have a history, and a relationship, that cannot be duplicated elsewhere. Perhaps his salary could have been duplicated in another city, but he certainly would not have found the same level of mutual admiration and respect that he finds in Pittsburgh. That more than anything, likely, is why he remains here today.