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Steelers' Foster has definitive role this year

| Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, 9:33 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers' Ramon Foster blocks for running back Le'Veon Bell againt the Bengals on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, at Heinz Field.

A year ago, guard Ramon Foster considered exploring free agency, partly because he wasn't sure of his role with the Steelers.

The Steelers had committed to rebuilding an oft-maligned offensive line. The previous NFL drafts had netted All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey, No. 1 pick David DeCastro and No. 2 pick Mike Adams.

So Foster contemplated offers from several teams — including the New York Jets, New York Giants and Chicago Bears. Ultimately, Foster and the Steelers agreed on a three-year deal shortly before the draft.

“I wanted to gain the respect of the guys in the room, so when I re-signed I got text messages from a lot of them,” Foster said. “It was good to see them respect me in that sense.

“I'm glad I'm here because I think the city has accepted me, too. We've done a lot of things we can build on, but we need to keep everybody together.”

The offensive line struggled early, in part because replacing guard Willie Colon and tackle Max Starks wasn't a seamless process. Then Pouncey went down with a season-ending knee injury on the Steelers' first possession in the season opener against Tennessee.

As the Steelers (6-8) prepare to face Green Bay (7-6-1) on Sunday in another game with playoff implications, it's clear Foster has assumed an even larger role than he could have imagined when the Steelers were closing an 8-8 season a year ago.

“I don't want to let my guys down,” said Foster, who five weeks ago missed only his second game in three seasons. “It's all about what you put on tape. I might not be the flashiest or prettiest guy, but I'm getting the job done.”

As the Steelers' most durable linemen over the past three seasons, the fifth-year guard has played through pain without complaint.

“There's no doubt he leads by example. I wouldn't say his role changed because he's always been a leader,” Adams said. “He'll do whatever he can to help the team.”

The job became increasingly difficult with Pouncey out. It didn't get easier as the offensive line surrendered 18 sacks of Ben Roethlisberger while the Steelers started 0-4.

“Certain situations showed we didn't play well,” Foster said. “Things weren't clicking, but now it's showing at the end of the year. Right now, we're building for years to come.”

The offensive line has given up only five sacks in the past four games. Roethlisberger wasn't sacked in back-to-back games against Cleveland and Baltimore.

“Ben did a good job of taking care of us by getting rid of the ball,” Foster said.

While this season has taken its toll on some, Foster has remained even-keeled.

“Ramon's thing is don't let anybody or anything take away your smile,” second-year tackle Kelvin Beachum said. “He keeps things light in the locker room, and he's helped make this an enjoyable environment to work.”

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rpaulk@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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