Ramon Foster not looking at Sunday as possibly being his last game with Steelers
Unless the Pittsburgh Steelers get some help from the Cleveland Browns, their game Sunday could be the last time guard Ramon Foster wears the home colors at Heinz Field.
A 10-year veteran, Foster is the second-longest tenured player on the Steelers roster, and he will be an unrestricted free agent in March.
Foster is unsure of his future, but he’s hoping to extend his stay with the Steelers beyond the regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals. For that to happen, though, he needs the Browns to play the role of spoiler in their game against the Baltimore Ravens.
A win by the Steelers and a loss by the Ravens is the only way the Steelers can win the AFC North for a third consecutive season. According to a New York Times playoff simulator, the Steelers have a 24 percent chance to finish first.
That’s good enough for Foster, who recited one of his favorite comedies when asked about the possibilities.
“I’m like Jim Carrey in ‘Dumb and Dumber,’” he said. “So, you’re saying we have a chance? That’s where I’m at.”
Foster isn’t ready to face the prospect that he might not play for the Steelers beyond Sunday’s game against the Bengals.
“No, not really,” Foster said after practice Wednesday. “The thought is there, but I can’t and I won’t dwell on it, either. In those moments, you kind of mess up, whether I’m playing again or whether I’m done or whatever the case may be.
“I feel I played well enough, so we will see what happens after the season.”
Before free agency hits, Foster will turn 33, celebrating his birthday on Jan. 7. If he makes his anticipated start against the Bengals, Foster will have played a full 16-game season for the first time in four years.
He is one of two players on (tackle Alejandro Villanueva is the other) who has played all 1,048 snaps on offense this season. On those snaps, Foster has been called for holding just twice and has been flagged for no other penalties. Not bad for someone who missed all of training camp because of a knee injury that initially could have jeopardized his season.
“He’s been awesome,” guard David DeCastro said. “He’s been as steady as ever. He always brings a good laugh to the party, and he gets serious when he needs to be. He does a great job of being that leader in the locker room. He’s the guy you see and look up to since I’ve been here.
“I hope it’s not his last (game), but if it is, it’s been fun.”
Foster is the only full-time starter ticketed to his free agency. Among the other impending unrestricted free agents are cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, tight end Jesse James, punter Jordan Berry and backups/special-teams players L.J. Fort, Anthony Chickillo, Tyson Alualu and Darrius Heyward-Bey. If the Steelers don’t retain Foster, they could go with younger, cheaper options at guard in B.J. Finney and/or Matt Feiler.
Foster, an undrafted free agent who joined the Steelers in 2009, nearly exited in free agency after his second contract expired in 2016. But he re-upped with the Steelers for three years and $9.6 million in 2016. He has appeared in 145 games and made 130 starts in his 10 seasons.
Foster entered the year keenly aware that this might be his last chance to win a Super Bowl with the Steelers. They were on track at midseason with a 7-2-1 record and the No. 2 seed in the AFC. But four losses in the past five games has pushed them behind the Ravens for the first time since October.
“We’ve talked about that among ourselves on the O-line,” Foster said. “With everything we’ve had go on with this team in general we’ve still done a lot.”
James Conner stepped in for Le’Veon Bell and rushed for 909 yards before suffering a high ankle sprain. Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster have achieved 100-catch seasons. Ben Roethlisberger leads the NFL in passing yards and has been sacked only 23 times.
Foster has done his part on a line that includes Pro Bowl players in Maurkice Pouncey, DeCastro and Villanueva and has played without right tackle Marcus Gilbert for the past 10 weeks.
“We haven’t dropped a beat,” Foster said. “With all that being said, it felt like we were on our way to (accomplishing our goals) and we still possibly are, but with what we’ve done earlier in the year by not handling our business, we’ve set ourselves behind the eight ball a little bit.”
It might take a trick shot for the Steelers to get out from behind it, otherwise Foster’s time with the Steelers may be up after Sunday’s game.
“You think about it a little bit, but you try not to think about it too much,” DeCastro said. “You never know what can happen, so you cross that bridge when you get to it and try to enjoy every game this season, every practice, every meeting. That’s all you can do in life.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.