PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have been waiting several years for their offensive line to come together due to health issues and inconsistent play, and after one solid season many believe the best is yet to come.
That's certainly the view of the players, who were just thrilled to be going into the offseason as healthy as they've been since they all were drafted.
"We're going into the offseason healthier as a group than we've been in years, so that's definitely a positive point for this team,'' guard David DeCastro said. "Hopefully, we can use this to springboard us into being even better for next season. You could see this year how that continuity helped us on the O-line.
"Obviously, we had a couple guys miss some time here and there, but we stayed healthy most of the season, developed that continuity together and improved all along the way. And with (offensive line coach Mike) Munchak coming back for his second year with us, we can only get better.''
While some believe that Munchak was unsuccessful, the Steelers O-line clearly made strides. Center Maurkice Pouncey returned to being his dominant, Pro Bowl self, while DeCastro is on the verge of reaching that status. Guard Ramon Foster believed any success on offense has to start up front for the Steelers.
"We made it through healthy,'' Foster said. "I'm looking forward to everybody being back in April and Coach Munchak having a year under his belt. And he knows how to work with us now. So, it'll be interesting to see what he points out and how much better we all can get, but we are healthy.''
Foster said that only Marcus Gilbert is hurt entering the offseason, but he did not believe the fourth-year right tackle would need surgery.
"He'll be OK,'' Foster said. "I think it's more of an ankle sprain, than anything else, so that's good for him and good for us. So, I'm sure he's excited that he doesn't need to have anything done. ... We have experience, especially with the young guys. A lot of guys grew up this year, and I'm happy to see that.
"We also have good coaches in place. They don't have to go searching for guys, and I'm happy about that. So, as far as the offense as a whole, it should be better than it was this year. (But) the veterans need to express that we all have to work to get better. It just doesn't happen without putting in the work.''
Foster believed the Steelers were heading in the right direction. Sure, the season ended much earlier than expected, but many players got much-needed playoff experience and with continued hard work the team can progress even farther next season.
"It's a team sport, so we're just trying to play our role and give the defense the best opportunity,'' DeCastro said. "I think we complemented each other, offense and defense, really well, especially toward the end of the season.
"We were playing really well together, good team football, and that's what wins championships. (So), I'll take a couple weeks off, just to give my body a rest, but then I'll get started preparing to come back even better for next year.''
Both agreed that Munchak has been able to bring out the best in the O-line.
"He's brought out our strengths,'' Foster said. "He's a guy that really maximizes our strengths and just overall your mental game is on top. He won't set you up for failure. I commend him. I think he's one of the best coaches period that I've had a chance to work with.
"I'm excited to see him for years to come, and he's a very even-keeled guy. If you have a bad play he's not going to make it seem like you're the worst player in the world. He wants you to build on top of that. By far one of the best coaches I've been around.''
And with more cohesion and consistency, the Steelers offensive line should be better than ever next season.