This is a very good line that wants to be great. And as you can tell by Ramon Foster's tweet, they're happy for their teammate.
The Steelers are counting -- and banking -- on this line fulfilling its potential. Some teams know games are won in the trenches, and the Steelers' investments suggest that they endorse that axiom. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 328 yards per game last year, but the more significant number is 20, Big Ben's sacks over 12 games, the best clip of his career.
Consider the contracts for the five Steelers' starters up front:
DeCastro -- six years, $58 million
Maurkice Pouncey -- five years, $44 million
Marcus Gilbert -- five years, $30 million
Foster -- three years, $9.6 million
Alejandro Villanueva -- $525,000 minimum
TOTAL (if earned, of course): $142.125 million
There's a good chance these players see at least two-thirds of that money. Pouncey and Gilbert are already deep into those contracts. And the three highest paid are all between ages 26 and 28. They have much more time together.
If Villanueva progresses the way the Steelers think he will, Big Al could be the next in line for a hefty payday.
Gilbert is becoming a bargain on his deal after getting into supreme shape (305 pounds)and gave up one only sack last season. Pouncey has been plagued by injuries but obviously the talent is worthy of the money when he's on the field. Foster, 30, probably could have gotten more money elsewhere but wanted to stay on a contender.
The team has reinforcements, too, with fourth-round pick Jerald Hawkins showcasing serious talent before going down with a torn labrum in camp. Vets Cody Wallace and Chris Hubbard flesh out the depth.
The DeCastro deal was always getting done, but the guard market forced both sides to be patient. Oakland signing guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele to $11.7 million a year complicated things. But Chicago signing Kyle Long to a four-year, $40-million deal early this week set the stage for DeCastro, who basically gets the same $10 million clip over more years.
Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown will always get their yards. But a big reason why this offense will continue to play well despite injuries and suspensions is the continuity on a talented line. The battery of Pouncey-Gilbert-DeCastro-Foster has been together for four straight years.
The next step: getting their running backs to average 5 rushing yards per carry.