Far be it from me to look ahead to 2013 for the Steelers, since they are still right in the thick of the playoff chase, but some things are coming into focus nonetheless. It’s funny how things work out sometimes in the NFL, but it’s also not exactly an odd ball occurrence either. Players get injured, underachieve, or the front office makes decisions mid season that carry over into future years.
For the Steelers, the Offensive Line started out with Max Starks, Willie Colon, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, and Marcus Gilbert. Over the weeks it’s transformed, mainly due to injuries, and might be giving us an indication of what’s to come later on.
David DeCastro is now the starting RG and will remain there since coming back from injury and Willie Colon being placed on IR, and former RG Ramon Foster now moved to LG. Marcus Gilbert went on Injured Reserve at the end of November and was replaced previously by Mike Adams, who is set to return possibly this weekend when the Bengals come to town. Max Starks is still his reliable self, holding down the fort at LT, but he is an unrestricted free agent again in 2013.
With Starks, the nine year veteran has been off and on the Steelers roster the last two seasons. The team brought him back after a rash of injuries early in 2011 in an effort to try and save what was left of Sean Kugler’s group and solidify the musical chairs ensemble that Pittsburgh was dealing with. It would seem that Starks would likely be available again should the Steelers need him next year, however his performance this season could make a target in free agency for teams looking for a veteran LT.
Speaking of free agents, Ramon Foster has nearly 40 starts in his young NFL career and is still making the league minimum of $1.26 million. His stock will rise significantly next season and if the Steelers want to keep him they would be wise to lock him up before free agency starts if possible. While he may not garner top dollar he will certainly be looking for a much bigger payday.
Willie Colon is in the middle of a 5 yr, $29 million dollar contract that he signed in June 2011, but is not on Injured Reserve again for the 3rd season in a row. The Steelers restructured his deal this past offseason to save cap room but it may be time to move on from the oft injured lineman and go with the youth movement.
The young talent invested in the line over the last 2 seasons in particular will need to start taking a prominent role for what’s left of 2012 and certainly in future years. That’s as it should be and we should expect the Steelers front office to give them a chance to take over their respective starting jobs and move forward with what could be an elite blocking line for years to come.
Even with Starks still at LT for this season yet, and doing a fine job at that, don’t be surprised if your 2013 line looks like:
LT – Marcus Gilbert
LG – Ramon Foster
C – Maurkice Pouncey
RG – David DeCastro
RT – Mike Adams.
Perhaps Gilbert and Adams switch positions, as both have experience on either side of the line, but either way they look to be the bookends of the future. Combined with youth and toughness in the middle there is much to look forward to the remainder of this season and in the future.