In addition to the recent promotion of outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo to the 53-man roster, the Pittsburgh Steelers also quietly made another move in recent days, this time bringing back undrafted rookie interior offensive lineman B.J. Finney, who proved to be far and away the best of a class of undrafted rookies that the team brought in looking for line depth.
In a corresponding move, the Steelers released lineman Barrett Jones from the practice squad, who was in competition for the starting center job for the Rams before he was released. The fact that he was available to be signed to the practice squad, however, does seem to say a lot about how he is regarded around the league, an evaluation that has much to do with his injury history.
It was clear throughout the offseason process that the team liked Finney, and that Finney liked the Steelers, with the latter being quite an understatement. A video of him making the announcement that he signed with the Steelers after the draft in an emotional state in front of friends and family went viral as he immediately became a fan favorite.
For their part, the Steelers were fans of Finney’s game, though perhaps not as much as the player was a fan of the team, having been so growing up. Among the team’s class of undrafted free agents, Finney was given the highest signing bonus, and was the most sought after of the group.
Toward the end of the preseason, Finney was in competition with second-year former undrafted offensive lineman Chris Hubbard for a spot on the 53-man roster, but Finney suffered an ankle injury on the penultimate play of the final preseason game that forced the Steelers to waive him injured.
Evidently he has healed from his injury of about a month ago and is ready to resume football activities, which was seemingly the only thing holding him back from being signed by the Steelers.
The team views him as a multi-positional player, having had extensive experience at center throughout his college career, but he played nearly exclusively at guard for the team during the preseason, likely to see how he fares there as well.
Pittsburgh seems to have a higher opinion of Hubbard than does the majority of the fan base, so it’s unlikely, at least for now, that he is at the risk of losing his spot on the 53-man roster to Finney.
When center Maurkice Pouncey returns, however, it will be an interesting situation, as Hubbard will inevitably be the one to be released to make room for him. When Pouncey went down, the team signed Doug Legursky to serve as the backup interior lineman on game days.
When Pouncey returns, Legursky will be inactive as the eighth or ninth lineman, which will mean that there is no room for Hubbard. It will be telling to see what the Steelers do with Hubbard then to see just how highly they think of him, if they choose to release Finney from the practice squad to add Hubbard there.