After putting together their best campaign in years under first-year offensive line coach Mike Munchak in 2014, many have acknowledged that the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line is headed for big things in 2015. Behind bright young players like Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and even Kelvin Beachum, the group’s performance over the second half of last season was inspiring enough to instill plenty of hope for the future.
Despite all that, one starter’s job remains in flux, namely the left guard spot occupied by Ramon Foster. It isn’t that Foster is a bad player, he’s simply an all-around average guard. There were a few occasions last year that Foster really got beat up, but he works hard and is a tough, smart player, who is very popular in the locker room amongst teammates. His selfless attitude and leadership abilities aren’t lost on the team, but heading toward his 30th birthday in six months, the Steelers won’t hesitate to look to the future this year either.
Enter B.J. Finney, undrafted free agent guard who created quite a resume for himself at Kansas State, despite coming to the school as a walk-on. A mentally tough lineman who lost his father at a young age and had to drain his bank account and borrow money just to get into Kansas State, Finney not only earned a scholarship while there, but notched 52 career starts in four years. The tenacious blocker also set a school record by being voted captain three times, the first offensive lineman in Wildcats history to enjoy the honor that many times.
If you want toughness, Finney certainly brings that to the table, but his versatility is another valuable trait. Finney played mostly center at Kansas State, but projects easily over to guard as well in the NFL. Not the most athletic or powerful lineman, Finney will win in the NFL with the same transferrable tools he utilized in college: outstanding technique, positioning, and hand usage. The four-year starter understands leverage and proper weight distribution, and is powerful enough to fit into the Steelers blocking schemes.
As excited as I am about Finney’s future with the black and gold, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much the team seems to love Chris Hubbard, who jumped in with the starters during preseason workouts at one point when Foster was absent. The UAB product spent 2013 on the practice squad, before joining the active roster last season and appearing in one game. Like Finney, Hubbard isn’t overwhelming in any one area, but gets by with technical skill, proper form, and fine second-level blocking.
The presence of these two players does not necessarily spell the end for Foster, but it does encourage the team to start thinking about moving in another direction at the position. With the lifelong Steeler set to become a free agent next spring, the end is inevitably coming for his time in Pittsburgh. Depending on how this summer goes, the end could be coming for Foster’s starting days as well.