The move may not be as strange as it appears at first glance. Despite their overall excellence, the Steelers have some needs in the offensive line. They lost one of their best blockers during the offseason when offensive tackle Marvel Smith signed with the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent.
Starks, a six-year pro out of the University of Florida, is one of the NFL's better tackles. Colon, a four-year man, has been a part-time starter. But Hills, the team's fourth-round draft pick in 2008 out of the University of Texas, reportedly has fallen far short of expectations. And Capizzi, an undrafted free agent in 2007, has spent most of his two NFL seasons on practice squads.
Enhancing Foster's chances is the fact Pittsburgh carried five tackles last season and did not select one in the recent NFL Draft. Since Foster was the only tackle the team signed as an undrafted free agent, he has a reasonable shot to stick with the Steelers.
In addition, Pittsburgh is a little short-handed at guard after cutting Kendall Simmons, who failed to pass the team physical. Simmons started the first four games of '08 before tearing his Achilles tendon.
The departure of Simmons leaves Pittsburgh with just four veteran guards – five-year man Trai Essex, five-year man Chris Kemoeatu, three-year man Jeremy Parquet and three-year man Darnell Stapleton. The Steelers added a guard via the draft, however, selecting Wisconsin's Keith Urbik in Round 3.
Essex has played some tackle, and Urbik made 16 of his 50 college starts on the outside. Their versatility may convince team brass to carry just four tackles in 2009, which could negatively impact Ramon Foster's chances of making the roster.
A native of Henning, Tenn., Foster owns the distinction of twice being named Tennessee's "Most Improved Offensive Player of spring practice" - winning that honor in 2005 and 2007.
He also made ESPN broadcaster Mark May's All-MayDay Team in 2007 for his toughness. After breaking his thumb in pre-game warmups, Foster still went out and played the entire Vanderbilt game. He went on to play every snap in subsequent games against Kentucky, LSU (SEC Championship Game) and Wisconsin (Outback Bowl).