Yesterday, it was originally reported by ESPN NFL reporter Field Yates that the Pittsburgh Steelers had taken the rare move of providing practice squad offensive lineman B.J. Finney a raise, after the rookie undrafted free agent originally failed to make the 53-man roster or the practice squad out of the preseason.
That was, of course, not his fault, as the lineman suffered an injury on the penultimate play of the Steelers’ final preseason game, which put another lineman on injured reserve as well. Instead, the team waived him injured and signed Barrett Jones to serve as the practice squad lineman.
Once Finney was healed and ready to go, however, the team released Jones and added Finney to the practice squad on the 29th of September, where he has remained since. Since then until just recently, he was making the standard practice squad salary of $6600.
Now, the Steelers are essentially paying him as a 54th member of the 53-man roster, earning a weekly salary of $25,588, which pro-rated over a 17-week schedule works out to roughly $435,000, the league-minimum salary.
It is rare for an organization to supply a full minimum-salaried active roster equivalent for a member of their practice squad, though the Steelers know first-hand that it happens. Earlier this year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers poached away first-year outside linebacker Howard Jones by offering him the same salary to serve on their practice squad.
Pittsburgh was going to sign him to their own practice squad, but declined to do so after Tampa Bay’s offer. He is now on their 53-man roster and is sparsely used as a pass-rushing specialist, but has accumulated three sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown in 153 snaps.
Given all of this, then, it should be taken as a sign that an organization has a player in their plans for the future if they are willing to pay him as an extra player on the active roster—money that does count against the salary cap, mind you. So the Steelers showed their future commitment to Finney with the news that we learned yesterday, but how soon might that be?
It could be as early as this season, perhaps even during the bye week. The fact that Byron Stingily has yet to dress for a game, and that the Steelers are essentially using Chris Hubbard as the top backup at every position, including tackle, should give a strong indication of need.
Kelvin Beachum is not coming back any time soon, and with every passing week, it seems less and less likely that Maurkice Pouncey or Mike Adams will return this season. aside from Hubbard, the only other interior backup on the roster is Doug Legursky, who aside from Stingily is the only lineman yet to log a snap.
It’s possible that the pay increase is a sign that the Steelers intend to promote Finney soon, perhaps to take the place of either Stingily or Legursky. But even if that promotion doesn’t come soon, or this year, he figures to be right in the mix to compete in 2016. At the bare minimum, it probably means that another team was interested in him.