There are not a lot of meaningful conclusions that you can reach about a player after the end of his first season, but that certainly doesn’t stop people from talking about it. You can find just about any variety of analysis that you would care to read if you just look for it, complete with bold letter grades.
I’m not going to do that. But I am going to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers’s 2015 NFL Draft class, both collectively, in this article, as was as individually, in succeeding articles.
While the tides have slowly turned in Pittsburgh regarding rookie players being held back in terms of playing time in recent years, the 2015 class outside of their first-round pick did not get a lot of burn during the year, but that shouldn’t be terribly surprising in hindsight.
The Steelers entered the draft process this year with eight draft picks, including the seven natural draft picks in each round, in addition to a compensatory draft pick in the sixth round, in addition to some notable undrafted free agent acquisitions.
Player: B.J. Finney
Draft Status: Undrafted
As I mentioned in this series yesterday, it is important not to overlook undrafted free agents when it comes to discussing a team’s ability to acquire talent from the college ranks in a given offseason. Typically, undrafted free agents are players who sign literally minutes to hours after the conclusion of the draft after going unselected, and for many, the freedom to choose your destination—if you have options—is preferable to being a late-round pick.
That was the case for Kansas State center B.J. Finney, whose favorite team happened to be the Steelers, and with him he happened to sign after the draft, announcing it emotionally to his friends and family, as a priority free agent, receiving the highest signing bonus the team gave out.
The team was obviously very fond of Finney, both on a professional and personal level, and were no doubt excited to get the opportunity to acquire him following the draft. He was, in fact, one of several interesting offensive line names that they were able to add to the roster as undrafted free agents, though he proved to be the cream of the crop.
Though it took him some time to get some higher quality reps during training camp and into the preseason games, Finney eventually began carving out a niche for himself, though he still figured to be a longshot to make the roster, even with the injuries that the team eventually incurred.
Of course, Finney became another one in that injury tally after he was the victim of friendly fire on the final offensive play of the team’s final preseason game, suffering a lower body injury that saw him waived injured.
But the Steelers didn’t forget about him, because once he was healed, the team brought him back, signing him to the practice squad during the course of the regular season, and he remained there for the rest of the year. He will be back in camp this year looking to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster.