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Foster's tenacity pays off with Steelers roster spot

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Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2009
 

The disappointment from the NFL Draft disappeared for Ramon Foster last weekend when the rookie offensive lineman went from undrafted free agent to a spot on the Steelers' 53-man roster.

The motivation from getting snubbed has helped propel the 6-foot-5, 325-pounder into a pivotal role as a backup left guard and right tackle. Foster expects to dress when the Steelers play the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night at Heinz Field in the NFL season opener, and he could be activated ahead of third-round pick Kraig Urbik.

"It feels great, especially going from being a free agent to making it with the world champion Super Bowl Steelers," Foster said. "It's very motivating for me and also makes me shake my head, the way the draft is set up with numbers and stuff like that. They can't measure a guy's heart at the combine. This right here is like my first-round draft to me.

"I don't take this for granted at all."

Foster was projected as a mid-round pick, but his stock slipped when he struggled in East-West Shrine practices and resorted to holding on nearly every play. He signed with the Steelers in part because of their history of giving equal opportunity regardless of draft status, with right guard Darnell Stapleton being the most recent UFA success story.

When Stapleton injured his left knee in the first week of training camp and was placed on injured reserve, it forced top backup Trai Essex into the starting lineup. That created a chance for Foster, who calls himself a "finisher" willing to do whatever it takes.

"I think Ramon would have been here, regardless of my injury," Stapleton said. "Ramon's a great player. He wasn't always technically sound, but he showed he had a little dog in him. He went out there and fought every snap."

Foster knew what was on the line, as three of his brothers are professional athletes. Renardo Foster spent the past two seasons as an offensive guard for the Atlanta Falcons. Rodney Carney plays for the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves and Ron Slay plays professional basketball in Italy. They have the same father, but only Ramon and Renardo the same mother.

"I just knew it was possible," Foster said. "Me and my brother Renardo, we grew up together (in Henning, Tenn.) and he was definitely my idol. Everything he did, I wanted to do, too."

In an ironic twist, Renardo was cut by the St. Louis Rams on Saturday, the same day Ramon officially made the Steelers.

"It just gave me a reality of how this sport and this business works," Foster said. "He had a good run, and I'm sure he'll get picked up again. I don't feel bad for him because he's budgeted and saved his money and he's well off right now. It's not so bittersweet because I know he's done the right things, so he's comfortable for a little while."

Now, the Steelers are getting Foster used to the idea that he's only an injury away from the starting lineup. None of their four backups on the offensive line has ever played in an NFL game, but his teammates are confident Foster can fill in if needed.

"We try to tell people who come in here, whatever position, that it doesn't matter how you got here. You're here now. It's all about what you do with it," right tackle Willie Colon said. "I think he did a great job of capitalizing on his opportunities. He came out and was physical. He didn't back down from anybody. He was fiery. He kind of reminded me of myself when I got here: anybody that wanted some, he was going to give it to them. He's a big body -- which we need -- and his ability to play guard or tackle is really huge for us.

"He's got a lot of upside. I'm excited about him."

Additional Information:

Top and bottom

Top five teams

1. Steelers -- Defending Super Bowl champions return 19 of 22 starters.

2. Patriots -- Tom Brady is back for a team that went 11-5 without him last season.

3. Giants -- If they can find a go-to wide receiver to replace Plaxico Burress, they will be the class of the NFC.

4. Chargers -- Defense should be much improved with linebacker Shawne Merriman healthy.

5. Eagles -- Offense will really soar if Philly can find a way to use Michael Vick and keep Donovan McNabb happy.

Bottom five teams

28. Chiefs -- New coach Todd Haley has already fired his offensive coordinator.

29. Broncos -- There is a new team turmoil in the AFC West.

30. Raiders -- The model franchise -- for how not to do things.

31. Rams -- It all starts with keeping quarterback Marc Bulger upright.

32. Lions -- So much for easing rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford into the NFL.

-- Scott Brown

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