Q: What's your injury, Ramon?
Ramon Foster: I had a knee scope. There's no need to rush it right now.
Q: Last year every lineman was at every volunteer practice.
RF: I've been here at every practice.
Maurkice Pouncey: He was practicing first but they shut him down.
RF: They shut me down.
MP: Year Nine I think. Once you get to a certain point they throw you some bones. You know them Milk Bones you give the puppies at the house? So we're all fighting to get to Year Nine.
Q: You're now getting preferential treatment for older guys and you're 31. Do you feel it?
RF: I remember being a young guy looking at the older guys getting it.
Q: You're still a kid, Maurkice.
MP: I know, man.
RF: What are you 28?
MP: 27, bro. Don't make me grow that fast. I'll be 28 in camp. 27 now. I'm holding on to it.
Q: Other guys have missed practices this spring too, but you did have the continuity last spring and summer. How much did that help? And does it matter as much now?
MP: Well we had a lot in Phase 1 and Phase 2. Obviously now we've got to find some good backups. The guys who are rotating right now, Finney's doing a helluva job, Hub's doing a helluva job. So the more reps they can get, the better for the whole unit. I mean, it gets to a point where Ramon doesn't have to block 34 double any more. I'm pretty sure he's seen every look in the NFL.
RF: That's true. And like he said, it's not about the guys who are in there but it's about the guys you might need at some point in time. Like he said, Finney and Hub are doing really good. We saw what those two did last year. Hub went against some great d-ends like Cameron Wake and he did a heck of a job. Finney came in and did the same thing. That's the thing about Pittsburgh. You build upon guys who are going to succeed guys. Me being out is great for them.
MP: Another great point: Le'Veon Bell wasn't here at last OTAs and he's the best in the NFL. We're looking at both sides of the fence now.
Q: But he was so good because the starting O-line was at every practice and they were ready when he got there.
MP: Is that what it is? I'm taking some of that credit with me.
RF: (Laughs) Let's see if we can get some of his contract.
Q: Can the O-line get better? Or is it more fine-tuning?
RF: I don't know if you can say you can or can't as much as you have to. We're going to have a bigger target on our back because of what we did this past year, and just with everything that's happening on our team. We want to have one of the best offenses and a lot of people feel that starts up front and we've got to be the guys to lead it. We've got to keep Ben clean and we've got to keep Le'Veon running. That's the big target on our back this year.
Q: You guys are grown men now. Can you get better physically?
MP: It's the all-around game. If you watch film, there were a lot of things we could've done better last year. We slap ourselves in the head and say, 'Man, if we could've done this we could've had a way better game.' At the same time, we've got to protect Ben. If we keep the sack number down, maybe he'll come back for another three years (laughs).
RF: And the physicality part is one of those things at this level either you've got it or you don't. If a guy's losing it, he's on his way out. That's not going to change.
MP: We'll find that out in camp. Coach T ain't gonna let that slide.
RF: No, no way.
MP: We've got the hardest camp in all of the NFL.
RF: Easily the hardest camp.
Q: Did you guys have a reaction when Ben Roethlisberger was contemplating retirement?
MP: Heck no. I texted him and said, 'Man, stop teasing. I told everybody I'm walking away when you're walking away and now I've got to answer the same questions.' (Laughs)
RF: That's two retirees. And guess what? If he's going, guess what I'm doing? I'm going. Matter of fact, he told me I can't retire till he gets to.
Q: Do you have goals like sack numbers, yards for Le'Veon? Or is it just Super Bowl?
MP: I think all the personal goals for the offensive line are the sacks and the rushing record, things like that, but you know it would be nice to carry around that medal. We've been here long enough and we've been working hard enough and maybe, hopefully, this year it happens.
RF: All I'm saying, I don't know how many New England had, and we looked at the film and said, 'Man, how are they getting this done?' And they happened to win the Super Bowl.
MP: We want our O-line to be remembered here.
MP: And the only O-lines that are remembered are the ones that won championships.
RF: We're the only group without one.
Q: Don't you think this O-line will be remembered?
MP: We've got to solidify that.
RF: A ring solidifies it.
Q: Well, Ramon was Pro Football Focus' top Steelers O-lineman last year. That had to be a lifetime goal, wasn't it?
RF: No, you get me to the Pro Bowl and maybe we can talk. When that stuff like J.J. Watt's on the top 100, you wonder.
MP: Aw, man, all those games we played and he got 35th? At least he acknowledged that. I love him for that.
RF: Yeah, he acknowledged it. That's awesome. I gained new respect for him for that.
Q: Any of you guys on that top 100?
RF: Dave (DeCastro) was 97th.
Q: You have two Pro Bowlers so far. Do you expect more this year?
RF: This ring, Jim, I hate to say it, but that's my only goal this year, that ring. A ring would solidify us forever here. That's my only concern. As a young guy you just want to play and have fun. Now, I'm at Year 9, he's at Year 8, Gil's at Year 7, Dave's at Year 6. We got to start bringing this thing together. All the money they paid out, we've got to give our returns on this and that's a ring.
Q: Do you look around and say this team can do it? Last year was good but this year might be better on offense.
MP: Defense, too. They finished top 10 last year and we got a lot of great picks this year who can help us out. The way they're all jelling together, man. It's exciting to see them making a lot of plays out here in OTAs.
RF: They remind me of us when we were coming up. You look at Bud and Chickillo. You got Moats in the fold. Deebo's still hanging around doing what he does. Shazier and Tuitt and Cam. It's a lot of names, and now they've grown. They've taken their licks. It'll be good.
Q: No one mentioned Martavis Bryant. To me, that's the eye-popping addition this year.
Q: Or are you just taking a cautious approach with him?
RF: Nah, I'm not taking a cautious approach.
MP: He learned the hard way. Whenever reality hits you in the face like that, either you accept it or you keep messing up, and I'm pretty sure he accepted it.
RF: Like I've been telling everybody, his demeanor is different now. I think he gets it, as far as what it's going to take for him to gain the masses' trust back. He doesn't have to gain our trust back as much as what people think of him. Right now he's at that point where he doesn't really care what you think he's all about, making sure he's good, and that's the first step. He has to make sure he's OK, and that's what he's doing on and off the field.
Q: You guys are leaders of a group that's the motor of any good team. Are you guys OK with how the chemistry's working around here?
MP: We're loving it.
RF: We have the most fun group in the building. You come in our room and you would love it.
MP: Everybody's been together so long now, the coaching staff, all the players, it makes it seem like a real family, man. Everybody ain't just picking--
Art Rooney II: Excuse me, do you guys mind if I take that bike?
MP: No, go right ahead. That bike looks too expensive for us to ride (laughs).
Q: Speaking of chemistry.
MP: See what I'm saying. It's just a big family here. Everybody loves each other. We're out here practicing for each other. Everyone knows how to practice now. Everyone knows how we have to keep getting better.
RF: Everyone knows what to expect from each other.
MP: It's exciting.