LATROBE, Pa. (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers starting left guard Ramon Foster’s right knee injury isn’t as bad as initially feared.
Foster was injured Saturday and left the team’s first padded practice of training camp on a golf cart. Head coach Mike Tomlin said Sunday that Foster had his knee evaluated and the injury won’t require surgery.
Tomlin offered no additional details on the injury or a timetable on Foster’s recovery, but team president Art Rooney II said the Steelers are hopeful to have Foster back in time for the regular season.
Regardless, it appears as if the Steelers won’t lose their starting left guard for an extended period of time.
“I never speculate,” Tomlin said. “I’m always hopeful, (and) I was that. So, we got relatively good news.”
The Steelers’ offensive line depth took a hit in the spring when they lost former fourth-round pick Jerald Hawkins to a torn quadriceps.
It didn’t look good for the Steelers when their most seasoned member of the offensive line went down on Saturday. Foster lay on the grass, holding his right knee after Landry Jones tossed an incomplete pass to Antonio Brown.
“It’s always a tough moment when someone goes down, especially in practice,” left tackle Alejandro Villanueva said.
Ben Roethlisberger was on one knee next to Foster, while injured linebacker Ryan Shazier and other teammates gathered.
“Ramon is a key guy and a key figure on this team,” guard B.J. Finney said. “I think it did kind of jolt everybody, but it made everybody realize that you’re only one play away from playing.”
Foster, who enters his 10th season, has been a consistent force on the offensive line.
He has appeared in 130 games with 115 starts since 2009, most on the team during that span. Some players looked visibly shaken on the field as a steady stream of veterans, including the starting offensive line, checked in on Foster before he left practice on a cart.
“Everybody loves Ramon and everybody wants him back,” Finney said. “But it’s the mentality that the next guy’s gotta come up and we’ve gotta keep things going.”
That’s where Finney steps in. Finney might not be a household name, but he has been effective with the Steelers.
Finney, who enters his third season, has appeared in 27 games with seven starts, including four last season. He started for Foster at left guard Oct. 15 against Kansas City, and helped Le’Veon Bell rush for 179 yards, tied for the 10th-most single-game rushing yards in team history.
“B.J.’s got experience, which is key in this league,” right guard David DeCastro said. “He’s played some big snaps for us.”
In his first career start at left guard in 2016, Finney was part of an offensive line that helped Bell rush for 144 yards and Roethlisberger throw for 300 yards and five touchdowns. That same season, he started for Foster at Buffalo and helped Bell rush for a team-record 236 yards.
“I don’t want the other guys to suffer from me coming in, so my mentality is to always make sure I’m not going to bring everybody down or hold anybody up,” Finney said.
Finney landed a spot with the Steelers after signing as an undrafted rookie free agent. It was a similar story in college as Finney was a walk-on at Kansas State, and finished as one of just three players in school history to earn all-conference honors four straight years.
Finney has proven reliable in Pittsburgh at both guard spots and center.
“It’s not a new thing for me, so I know that I can play at this level and I can do a good job filling in when I have to,” Finney said.
Finney is going to have to fill in as the Steelers starting left guard, at least until Foster returns.
“It’s really tough,” DeCastro said of Foster’s injury. “A guy that’s been here that long, and part of the group that we have, it’s difficult, but luckily it’s not too bad and he’ll be back.”
Notes: S Morgan Burnett missed his third practice with a hamstring injury. … WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (undisclosed), OLB T.J. Watt (hamstring), TE Vance McDonald (foot), S Sean Davis (groin), and LB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi all left Sunday’s practice early.