Despite being a backup, second-year interior offensive lineman B.J. Finney is a pretty popular player for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A 2015 undrafted free agent, he spent that year on the practice squad and made the team a year later, making three starts, including two very successful ones at guard.
Finney has started three games in place of Ramon Foster at left guard this season, including Monday’s game against the Texans, and the Steelers have won each of those games. As he likely prepares for a start at center in the finale, let’s take a look at his work from the Texans game.
Starting with the touchdown pass to Justin Hunter on third and goal, Finney did as a lineman ought to when he has no clear assignment: find work. This will be a theme. Seeing Alejandro Villanueva working on Jadeveon Clowney, he stymied an inside rush attempt as the two linemen drove the defender backward.
Helping to salvage another third-down conversion as Ben Roethlisberger hit Le’Veon Bell on a pass for seven, Finney initially helped his left tackle with Clowney before Benardrick McKinney, whom the Texans use in a variety of roles, stunted inside. It wasn’t a clean pickup, but the guard got enough to keep the quarterback free.
On a deep incompletion into the end zone that drew a defensive pass interference call, Finney looked like a pinball, bouncing from his left to his right to find defenders to block. First he helped out Vilanueva, then Maurkice Pouncey, and finally chipped at a looping Clowney as the play broke down.
The Texans also like to use Clowney in different spots, and he saw several snaps rushing from an interior position, sometimes standing, sometimes from a three- or four-point stance. He rushed from the latter in this example, and Finney picked him up, leaning on his inside help before driving Clowney wide as he countered in that direction.
That, too, was on third down, as was the would-be sack that instead was a face-mask penalty on Clowney. There was some miscommunication here as Villanueva let him go to pick up an edge blitzer.
On a late deep completion, the backup guard did get driven back some into the pocket, but anchored well enough until late in the rep to allow the long ball to be released with accuracy.
Finney has continued to be a solid performer at guard when given the opportunities. But tomorrow he likely starts at center for Pouncey, and he struggled there last season against the Browns. Despite being a center in college, guard has been his better pro position, so it would be great to see him play a stronger game this time.