The microscope is on the Pittsburgh Steelers' top two draft picks. They're expected to turn that shoddy offensive line into a strength.
But what about Ramon Foster?
Foster could be considered part of the Steelers' problems on the offensive line since he came on board as an undrafted free agent in 2009.
Considering all the hype surrounding David DeCastro and Mike Adams, it would be a disappointment if both weren't starting in Denver on Sept. 9.
However, Foster likely will make the team, and DeCastro will have to beat him out to earn the starting job at right guard.
DeCastro and Foster both started Thursday in the Steelers' preseason opener at Philadelphia.
With starting left guard Willie Colon injured (what else is new?), Foster started at left guard with DeCastro at right guard.
Preseason games aren't about the score—they're about evaluating players.
If the Steelers' offensive line is to improve, depth will be important. That's where Foster comes in. So let's focus on Foster and assess how he did.
In general, the 6'6", 325-pound Foster was a little better as a run-blocker than a pass-blocker against the Eagles.
His highlight of the night came on the third and fourth plays of the second quarter. He helped spring Chris Rainey for a 14-yard gain by blocking defensive tackle Derek Landri. Rainey ran right around the Foster-Landri engagement on the play.
On the next play, the 26-year-old Foster beat second-year defensive tackle Cedric Thornton on Jonathan Dwyer's 33-yard gain that moved the Steelers to the Eagles' 3-yard line.
Foster's run-blocking wasn't quite as good in the red zone. He provided little help on a 1-yard loss and a 2-yard gain.
Then Foster neutralized Thornton again on Byron Leftwich's 2-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders. He didn't need to hold the block very long, but he got the job done.
Earlier in the drive, Foster got to the second level on a 7-yard gain by Dwyer.
Foster started the game well, beating Landri clean on the first play from scrimmage as Ben Roethlisberger threw a 5-yard pass to Isaac Redman. He got Landri on the ground two plays later on Roethlisberger's 7-yard pass to David Johnson and handled Landri again on the next play to open a hole for Redman, who ran for five yards.
Foster and Maurkice Pouncey double-teamed Landri to protect Roethlisberger on an 8-yard pass to Rainey, which set up a 4th-and-1.
Redman gained three yards on the 4th-and-1, but Foster can't be credited too much. Redman made that play with his ability to run around the pile and didn't need or get much blocking.
Steelers quarterbacks were sacked four times in the first half. Two were not Foster's fault. He shares the blame with the rest of the offensive line on the third and is largely responsible for the fourth.
Roethlisberger was sacked twice on the opening series, a 15-play, 51-yard drive that led to Shaun Suisham's 46-yard field goal.
The first sack, by Phillip Hunt, wasn't Foster's fault because he handled Thornton with Pouncey's help.
On the second sack, the pocket collapsed when Landri got around Foster. Darryl Tapp and Brian Rolle combined to take down Roethlisberger.
After the first two series, which resulted in a field goal and a touchdown, Foster's performance declined because he was surrounded by more second-teamers.
Trai Essex, Kelvin Beachum, Doug Legursky (who also played the second series) and DeCastro joined Foster on the third series, and the entire line broke down on Brandon Graham's sack of Leftwich, which dragged the Steelers back seven yards. The drive went three-and-out.
The Steelers' red-zone woes continued late in the second quarter.
Al Woods' 43-yard interception return to the Eagles' 4-yard line yielded only a field goal. The Steelers lost a yard, gained it back, then Landri tackled Rainey for a 9-yard loss because Foster blocked the wrong guy.
Foster wasn't terrible at left guard in the preseason opener, but there's plenty of room for improvement.
In this new era of euphoria surrounding the Steelers' rejuvenated offensive line, more will be expected from starters than what Foster showed.
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