With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, B.J. Finney.
The Steelers have not invested too heavily in their offensive line since the 2012 NFL Draft, during which they drafted free, including two in the first two rounds, but that is because they haven’t had to. They’ve only drafted two linemen since then in the mid-rounds, including a fourth-round tackle this year.
They did sign B.J. Finney as a priority undrafted free agent, and many had and continue to have high hopes for him, no doubt some within the team sharing in those hopes, but the reality is that there have been other can’t-miss undrafted free agent linemen they’ve brought in that people were confident would make it.
So far, Chris Hubbard has been the closest to a success story since Ramon Foster, though Finney could potentially supplant him this season. He was signed as a priority undrafted free agent, meaning that they had a draftable grade on him.
While he did not make the 53-man roster, he was signed to the practice squad after he recovered from a preseason injury at the end of the final game, and by the end of the season, he had been given a financial promotion that paid him the equivalent of a rostered salary, which suggests that they were at risk of losing him and wanted to keep him.
Finney had his ups and downs during the preseason, and even struggled initially to see playing time, but he improved as time went on, and I would imagine that he continued to improve into the regular season during practice sessions, even if he was never promoted to the 53-man roster.
He showed the variety of his skill set during the preseason, working at both guard and center, working on the move and to the second level, working on blitz recognition, and overall showed the potential of an NFL-worthy skill set.
What he has to show this offseason is the ability to do that consistently, and at a higher level, as he wades through his competition, which includes Hubbard, for a final spot on the 53-man roster. Hopefully he has also been in the weight room.