Steelers offseason positional outlook: Interior offensive line
Editor’s note: This is sixth of a 12-part series breaking down the Pittsburgh Steelers at each position in the offseason. All salary cap information courtesy spotrac.com .
Over the past 18 months, the long and prosperous Pittsburgh sports tenures of the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury, James Harrison and Andrew McCutchen came to an end. In the coming months, another Steel City professional sports mainstay is expected to move on, too.
Largely as a function of the nondescript position he plays, Ramon Foster’s possible departure from the Steelers probably won’t get the attention or elicit the emotion that the goodbyes of Fleury or McCutchen did from the Penguins and Pirates, respectively. But how many players in the histories of any of the three major local professional sports teams were starters over a 10-season span?
An undrafted free agent in 2009, Foster has appeared in 146 games and started 131, including at guard for five postseason teams. He’s been a rock at left guard since 2013, but at 33 and with his contract expiring it would seem difficult to envision the Steelers bringing him back under the kind of contract terms he likely could fetch elsewhere – particularly when there is an in-house replacement ready.
B.J. Finney has started at least one game at each of the three interior line positions over the past there seasons (nine starts total), and the 2015 undrafted free agent has shown he’s capable. At 27 and facing free agency of his own after this season, the Steelers probably feel it’s Finney’s time.
Now, do they believe in him enough so that they’ll give him a contract extension this spring? If the organization is truly committed to moving on from Foster, that’s a possibility, the idea being to lock Finney up now (he’s a restricted free agent) before his leverage increases after a year as a starter and with the open market (unrestricted free agency) staring him in the face.
The only other possible internal candidate to start at guard with regular-season game experience is Matt Feiler, who started 10 games at right tackle in 2018 but had spent most of the previous three years with the Steelers as a practice-squad guard. Feiler, though, might be in the running to be Marcus Gilbert’s successor at right tackle.
Outside of the situation at left guard, the biggest offseason storyline for the Steelers on the interior of their offensive line is hammering out a contract extension for center Maurkice Pouncey.
Last week, Pouncey was named the second-team All Pro center for 2018, his fifth All Pro honor over the seven seasons he’s played. Although he turns 30 the week the Steelers are set to report to training camp, he’s as valuable in the locker room as he is on the field and the team almost certainly would prefer to lock him up for the longterm.
Last month added to his fourth consecutive AFC Pro Bowl roster, right guard David DeCastro is signed through 2021.
Offseason outlook: Guards/centers
• G David DeCastro, 3 years left on contract, $11.97 million cap hit for 2019
• C Maurkice Pouncey, 2 years left on contract, $11.5 million cap hit for 2019
• R.J. Prince, practice squad
• Patrick Morris, practice squad
• G Ramon Foster, unrestricted, $3.59 million cap hit in 2018
• G/C B.J. Finney, restricted, $630,000 cap hit in 2018
• *-G/T Matt Feiler, exclusive-rights, $555,000 cap hit in 2018
(*-Also listed as tackle)
Up Next: Defensive line
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.