Foster: Steelers' O-line has to prove worth

PITTSBURGH -- An offensive line in which the Pittsburgh Steelers invested heavily in recent NFL drafts appeared to come together in the second half of last season.

The Steelers allowed just 11 sacks in the final eight games of 2013 and averaged 99.3 rushing yards in those contests. The latter hardly represents a robust number, but it is a significant jump from the Steelers’ overall rushing yards per game last season (86.4). And the Steelers averaged 125.7 rushing yards in winning their final three games and nearly sneaking into the playoffs.

To borrow a favorite Mike Tomlin cliché, the arrow is pointing up for the offensive line, especially since Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey looks fantastic after coming back from a torn ACL.

Just don’t tell left guard Ramon Foster that.

“It’s nothing right now,” Foster said of the Steelers' offensive line, “and I say that in the sense that (the group’s potential) has been talked about the last few years. The talent is there, but if we come out here and (falter) we’ll be saying the same thing next year. You can’t just say because we have the high-round talent or guys that have experience that it’s supposed to be special. We’ve got to make it that way.”

That is exactly the kind of talk Tomlin wants to hear as no one should assume anything when it comes to the Steelers following consecutive 8-8 seasons.

There is, however, a lot to like about the line.

At least on paper.

The group is experienced but also young -- Foster, who turned 28 in January, is the oldest projected starter -- and it has better depth than in recent years.

The Steelers also have the perfect coach to pull everything together up front in Mike Munchak.

Munchak is a Pro Football Hall of Fame guard and his credentials as an offensive line coach are impeccable.

To say his new players have embraced Munchak is an understatement.

“Being around him now you see his reputation is exactly what you’ve heard,” Foster said, “and his knowledge of the game and the way he treats each player separately as far as his ability to do stuff you can see the quality of the coaching he brings. Everything you’ve heard is true.”

That does not necessarily apply to talk that the Steelers’ offensive line will be a strength in 2014.

At least not yet.

“We have to make it happen,” Foster said, “so to say this line is this or that, we’ve got to put in the work first.”