The future of the Steelers offensive line is in good hands after the team agreed to terms with center Maurkice Pouncey and guard Ramon Foster on new contracts.
Pouncey, who was still under contract, agreed on a new three-year deal, while Foster, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent on March 13, agreed to terms on a two-year deal.
"It's good to have it over with," said Foster. "The Steelers have been our home for over a decade now. It's awesome to be able to extend my career there, also my family. It's always been a second home to us. We are excited. When we started talking we got it done quick because both sides wanted to get it done. It's definitely a relief."
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Pouncey embodies what being a good teammate, leader and player is all about, and he will continue to do that in black and gold through the 2021 season after agreeing to terms on a three-year contract.
Pouncey, one of the offensive team captains in 2018, has been a staple at center since the Steelers selected him in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He has started all 108 games he has played in his career, and also has started seven postseason games.
Pouncey was selected to his seventh Pro Bowl last year, as the offensive line gave up just 24 sacks, the fourth fewest in the NFL. Pouncey was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three years, becoming the first center in league history to do so. He was named first-team Associated Press All-Pro twice in his career (2011 and 2014), and was named second-team All-Pro for the third time in 2018, previously earning the honor in 2010 and 2012.
"At the center position stability is a key," said Hall of Famer Dermontti Dawson. "Continuity, you have to have the continuity. Maurkice is the keystone of the offensive line. He is making all the calls. He is a phenomenal athlete.
"He is a leader. Guys follow guys who are accountable and play up to a certain level. That is what he is doing. That is bringing up all of the other guys' play as well. He is a key for the success of the offensive line."
Leader is definitely a word that describes Pouncey.
"I look at myself as just loving my job," said Pouncey, when I asked him previously about being a leader. "Being upbeat and positive all of the time, that makes football easy for me. Building a relationship with these guys is so special. It's bigger than football. These guys are brothers to me. When I am coming in to work, it's like hanging with my family all day. That is how I look at it."
Pouncey isn't just a leader on the field and in the locker room, but also in the community. Pouncey undertook a mission to bring the community and the Pittsburgh Police Department closer together. He wanted to do something to build trust and develop a relationship that will hopefully last, and will improve relations long term.
For the past two seasons Pouncey has donated tickets to Steelers home games to the Pittsburgh Police for them to take youth in city neighborhoods to games, as well as enjoy a pregame tailgate party inside of Stage AE. The tickets are distributed to different police zones each week, allowing a wide range of kids the opportunity to not only see a game, but spend quality time interacting with the police and getting to know the men and women who are there to protect them.
"He is truly making a difference," said Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert. "We can have officers and the kids from the community spend about five hours together not on the street, not at the station and have fun together. The kids get to know the officers, the officers get to know the kids, and the adults in the community who are chaperones.
"The main thing is to get the youth, or anyone in the community, to look beyond the uniform, and the badge and patch, and see the individual. The same thing on our side. We don't want to see everybody as a victim, or a witness, or someone who is going to be arrested. We want to see the person. That has paid off huge dividends. You see people in the community going to the game and have developed a relationship with them and that's priceless."
He was one of the players to donate to the Pittsburgh Police Fund through the Steelers Social Justice Grant program. He does his annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank alongside police officers.
"It amazes me how humble he is," said Chief Schubert. "He doesn't want notoriety for it. He just wants to make a difference. Giving back to the community is important to him. It speaks volumes of his character and who he is. I know he is not originally from Pittsburgh, but he sure is making Pittsburgh proud."
Take a look at some of the best photographs of Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey from the 2018 season
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Foster has been a staple on the Steelers offensive line for the past 10 seasons, and that will continue moving forward as the veteran guard agreed to terms on a two-year contract to remain in black and gold through the 2020 season. Foster was slated to become an unrestricted free agent on March 13 when the new NFL year begins, but this will allow him to finish out his career with the only team he has ever played for.
"I had a friend of mine express that to me," said Foster. "He said he is envious of it. Not in a bad way. A lot of guys never get a chance to finish their career at one place. It's a rarity that guys have that opportunity. I am one of the few who is able to do it. I am glad it's in Pittsburgh.
"Our job now is to get a ring."
Foster, who first signed with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent following the 2009 NFL Draft, will be entering his 11th season in black and gold, second only to Ben Roethlisberger who will be entering his 16th season with the Steelers.
"Ben has reached out. He sent me a text," said Foster. "We have been talking about it. He is excited. When he is excited it's a testament of things to come."
Foster didn't miss any action in the 2018 season, starting all 16 games, playing all 1,048 offensive snaps, and being a steady force for an offensive line that is one of the best in the NFL. Foster helped the line not give up any sacks for two consecutive games last season, keeping Roethlisberger upright against Atlanta (10/7) and Cincinnati (10/14).
For his career Foster, who is also a leader and key voice in the locker room, has played in 146 games, starting 131 of them.
"He's been awesome," said David DeCastro. "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."
This is the second time Foster re-signed with the team, instead of leaving as a free agent. In 2016 he signed a three-year contract to keep him with the Steelers.
"It means a lot," said Foster of playing for the Steelers. "It means a lot for the guys in the building. And a lot of people outside have respect for it. If you know it, you realize it. I am excited to continue to be a part of the history of the Steelers."
Foster has also been a leader in the community, helping to spearhead the team's Social Justice Program this season.
"Pittsburgh gives us so much," said Foster. "Not just in what we do on the field, but the love that you get. It's a genuine city that loves their players, loves the people. That is one thing you find out while being here in Pittsburgh. They make you feel wanted here.
"To be able to give back, to help make it a better community, it's a great thing."
Take a look at some of the best photographs of Steelers G Ramon Foster from the 2018 season