If I were to ask you to spout off the names of players you believe are among the best interior offensive linemen in the NFL, who would you choose? Players like Marshall Yanda, Zach Martin, Travis Frederick, Gabe Jackson, or Kelechi Osemele may top your list.
But what about Ramon Foster?
If you mentioned the name 'Ramon Foster' to a fan not affiliated with the Pittsburgh Steelers, you will probably notice a puzzled expression on their face. It's sad but true: Foster gets little to no recognition outside of Pittsburgh. One of the league's best interior offensive linemen has been bullying defenses for years, and it's time fans start taking notice.
Ramon Foster was a former tackle for the University of Tennessee. After being ranked the 23rd best tackle in the nation according to NFLDraftScout.com, Foster declared for the NFL draft in 2009. Originally projected to be drafted in the 6th or 7th round, Foster never heard his name called on draft day. However, it wasn't long before he received a call from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Foster didn't develop into a star overnight. He had an extremely challenging uphill battle. He was considered a tweener - a potential swing player that could back up both the right guard and right tackle position. As an undrafted rookie free agent, Foster found himself buried on the depth chart. The Steelers were already loaded with big, physical lineman like Willie Colon, Chris Kemoeatu, Justin Hartwig, Trai Essex, and Doug Legursky.
On top of that, the Steelers had just drafted Kraig Urbik - a mammoth guard in the 3rd round of the same draft class where Ramon Foster went undrafted. The Steelers cut ties with Urbik after just one season. After appearing in just 12 combined games in his first two NFL seasons, Foster competed with Chris Kemoeatu, Doug Legursky, and Trai Essex for a starting role. The 2011 season marked the third year in a row Ramon Foster began the year as a backup and finished as a starter.
From here, there was no turning back for Foster. The former undrafted free agent not only started for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he steadily improved each year. Here's how Ramon Foster rated out each of his eight NFL seasons, according to ProFootballFocus.com:
As you can see, Foster showed steady improvement. In three of his last four seasons, Foster played at a borderline Pro Bowl level. In 2016, Foster Rated out as one of the best offensive linemen in all of the football.
The Steelers are no strangers to great success stories. Antonio Brown was a 6th round pick who worked his way to the top to become one of the league's best wide receivers. Alejandro Villanueva was a tight end and defensive end in college before serving three tours in Afghanistan and becoming a very solid tackle for the Steelers. Do I even need to mention James Harrison?
Ramon Foster should be considered with these success stories. Here are some facts that every football fan must know about Foster.
- He was one of four guards not to allow a sack in 2016 (in 538 snaps)
- He graded out as the 2nd best guard in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus (89.1 overall grade)
- He graded out as the 36th best player in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus
- There are 88 offensive linemen that currently make more money than Foster.
- There are 28 guards that make more money than Foster.
- Despite rating out better last year, Fosters average yearly salary is approximately 1/4 as large as Kevin Zeitler's (the league's highest paid guard).
- The Steelers' 21 sacks allowed were the 2nd fewest in the league, in large part thanks to Foster allowing zero.
- He has played and started all but 7 games over the past 6 seasons.
I'm not saying Foster should be named to the all-decade team. I simply ask that football fans (Steelers or otherwise) recognize the substantial impact of this unknown NFL star. His physicality and consistency, coupled with the fact that he took such a team-friendly deal in Pittsburgh make him one of my favorite members of the Steelers.
I believe Ramon Foster is the most underrated player on the Steelers. With his help, the Steelers should yet again have one of the best-rated offensive lines in the league in 2017.