The day after the Steelers 2012 season ended, guard Ramon Foster talked about the bright future for the offensive line.
As he spoke, in his heart he knew he wanted to be a part of that line moving forward. But he also knew the potential that existed, that come March 12 he could become an unrestricted free agent and might be looking elsewhere, might be finding a new team and new line to play on. And he didn't like the prospect of that.
"We can be really good," said Foster in late December. "We have a lot of top-quality picks and young guys. I think the average age in our room now is 25 years old. Those guys are really good. We have depth. We have a lot of talented and special players on the line. You have all dynamics, smart guys and tough guys. I want to be a part of a line like that."
Foster got his wish. Before he had a chance to become a free agent he agreed to a deal to remain with the Steelers and continue to be a part of the line.
"I didn't want to have to go anywhere," said Foster. "The history of the Steelers is something that went into it. Knowing the guys in the offensive line room was a big factor. There was a coaching change at our position, but you still have the core there with Coach (Mike) Tomlin and the others who have been around the team."
Getting the deal done before the free agency bell officially rang was icing on the cake. Foster had already started thinking about what he would have to do if a deal wasn't reached, thinking about making visits to other teams. It was something he wanted to avoid.
"Going into free agency everyone expects to make visits," said Foster. "But my agent and the Steelers worked really hard to get something done and it was done before that was needed.
"When the season is over you don't know what is going to happen. To finally have it done is a big stress reliever. Uncertainty is something I don't like at all. It's definitely a relief to have it done and to know where you are going to be for a while. It's just a weight lifted off your shoulders. We knew something would get done. Once it was all settled the best plan worked out for us and it was with the Steelers. It's a good feeling."
Foster has seen teammates come and go over the years during free agency, has heard stories from players about what it's like to go from team to team. Entering his fifth season he knows how lucky he is to remain with the team that first signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2009.
"You have certain guys that have been in the league maybe eight years and have been with eight teams," said Foster. "Stability is a major part of the way guys play and the way guys succeed. I am glad I didn't have to find that out."
With the ink dry on the new deal, Foster knows it's time to focus on the 2013 season. He started 13 games at right guard last season, moving to left guard for the final three games of the season. Foster knows he has to work on improving his game this offseason, and the offensive line has to step it up overall.
"I need to be more consistent in all facets, run blocking, pass blocking, everything," said Foster. "I need to grow in all areas.
"The line has to just be the group that everybody goes to. We need to play consistent. When we go on the field, our presence needs to be felt. I think that needs to happen in the building, at practice and on game day."