In spite of the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers took a shellacking on Sunday evening courtesy of the Eagles, we didn’t really learn a whole lot that we didn’t already know. Basically, for the most part, it was a game in which all of the team’s shortcomings were accentuated, and then further exacerbated by injuries.
But one thing that we did learn is that, at least with Cody Wallace still injured, first-year offensive lineman B.J. Finney is the team’s top interior reserve, ahead of Chris Hubbard, who did not dress for Sunday’s game with Markus Wheaton returning and needing a helmet.
And in his first game as the lone interior lineman dressed, he was called into action when starting left guard Ramon Foster left the game with chest and elbow injuries late in the second quarter, resulting in Finney logging nearly two thirds of the Steelers’ total offensive snaps as a result.
By and large, I actually think that he acquitted himself pretty well, especially given the circumstances. This was his first appearance ever on offense in a meaningful game, in his first season on the roster. He had to come in as an injury substitute in the middle of the game. And he was facing one of the toughest defensive fronts in the game, spearheaded by Fletcher Cox, whom he saw more than a few times.
One thing that I noticed is that as the game progressed, the offense turned more and more to quick passes, as the Eagles front was simply gaining penetration too quickly. Finney was among those who were quickly losing ground after the snap courtesy of powerful bull rushes from Philadelphia’s interior defenders, but nobody looks pretty absorbing a bull rush.
To his credit, I think he displayed strong lower body work in his efforts to combat the Eagles’ powerful defensive tackles. While he gave up real estate being driven back in the pocket, he still maintained proper leverage and consistently had his weight going forward because he was sound in his foot placement, and when he did begin to lose the bull-rush tug-of-war, he was smart enough to turn the lineman at an angle.
He also was not responsible for any of the three sacks that the offensive line allowed while he was in the game. In fact, he happened to do a pretty solid job on these plays. There were only a few times in which Finney was beaten cleanly by a swim move, and Cox was responsible for the bulk of these
And it is also interesting to note that he assumed Foster’s role in signaling when to snap the ball, although that is not the most trying task in the world. It is another but small note, but I also saw him a few times going up to the play and making sure to help the ball carrier back up to his feet.
It may be a small thing, but at the very least, I think Finney had a solid debut against the Eagles, and he may well develop into the team’s long-term interior reserve. He may even hold that job now after Wallace returns from his knee injury.