Free agent Ramon Foster thrust into spotlight
When the Steelers signed Ramon Foster as an undrafted free agent, he was viewed as an offensive line project with a nice upside.
When Foster beat out Doug Legursky to became the backup left guard to start the season, he was no longer viewed as a long-term project because his promotion meant he was only one play away from replacing starter Chris Kemoeatu.
Foster makes his NFL debut as a starter Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens because Kemoeatu is sidelined with sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee.
For Foster, who replaced Kemoeatu during last week's loss at Kansas City, having a week to prepare for his first starting assignment should boost his confidence level.
"This week is a little bit different,'' said Foster, who primarily started at right tackle at Tennessee. "Now you get a little more time to prepare and get into the mindset of knowing you're going to play for sure instead of coming off the sideline.
"I didn't even know he (Kemoeatu) was coming out for an injury. I thought he was going to come out for a play and go back in.''
Foster follows in a long line of Steelers' offensive linemen who weren't highly touted entering the draft, as there are no first- or second-round picks along the line in the starting lineup.
Left tackle Max Starks, who plays next to Foster on the line, said Foster is a quick study who pays attention to detail and is always prepared.
"Ramon's fine. He understands that this is a business. First and foremost, you have to take care of your job and your responsibility. He's willing to make adjustments and learn how to be a better player,'' Starks said.
"I played with him in the preseason. He's been doing a great job. That's why he got the backup role immediately from week one because he shows a lot of promise, and he knows what he's doing out there. It's going to be a good test for him, but you have to go in there with confidence, and I think he has that.''
Foster said there's no time for nervousness because he understands what's at stake for the 6-4 Steelers, who seek their third consecutive regular-season win over the 5-5 Ravens as both teams vie for a postseason berth.
While he acknowledges Baltimore's traditionally strong defense, Foster feels good about his ability to adapt to a starting unit that has improved from last season.
"I've just got to stay humble and make sure I'm on the same page with those guys,'' he said. "They've been playing together for over two years, this same unit. I've got to make sure I know my assignments and do everything up to their standard.''
Foster is well aware that he is replacing Kemoeatu, who has developed into one of the league's top run blockers.
At 6-foot-5, Foster is two inches taller than Kemoeatu and has longer arms, which could help him in pass blocking situations against the Ravens.
"Chris is a guy that can do it all,'' Foster said. "I've watched him and seen him do stuff, and I try to (mimic) him.''