While they have not yet done a whole lot this offseason—at least when it comes to the roster, as the coaching staff is another matter—the Pittsburgh Steelers have already in the early portions of the offseason spent some time assuring that they retain their quality depth along the offensive line.
That effort included yesterday signing second-year interior offensive lineman B.J. Finney to a one-year contract extension. He was slated to become an exclusive rights free agent at the start of the new league year.
Truth be told, I don’t really know what the difference is semantically between giving him a one-year contract extension and giving him an exclusive rights free agent tender. I believe for practical purposes it ultimately works out in the exact same manner. But it doesn’t really matter. The point is that he will be back in 2018.
And one wonders, in what role? Entering his third season on the 53-man roster—he spent his rookie season in 2015 on the practice squad—Finney already has seven starts under his belt, including five at left guard and two at center, though he failed to complete his second start at center, which came in the 2017 season finale.
The fact that Finney has five starts at left guard, and the fact that the Steelers have tended to play well, if not quite well, when he has been in the game, I’m sure is not lost on anybody. And I’m sure everybody is quite well aware of who is in front of him.
An undrafted free agent in 2009, Ramon Foster is entering his 10th season in the league coming out of Tennessee. He has been a full-time starter for roughly half of his career now, though he always managed to find starts here and there going back to his rookie season.
The reality of the situation, though, is that Foster is the only member of the offensive line who is 30 years old or older. In fact, he turned 32 years old in early January. The 2018 season is also the final year of his contract.
It is an inevitability that both he and the team have to consider the end of his playing career. And whether or not he will end his career as a starter. Foster is a very valuable member of the locker room and he continues to play well on the field, it should be said.
But could Finney possibly be given the opportunity to compete to start at left guard in training camp this season? Will a succession plan be in place for him to become the presumptive starter in 2019? Are they even looking at Finney’s future in that regard?
The team, and certainly Mike Munchak, obviously like the player quite a bit, and I personally do believe that he can be a full-time starter. We are probably reaching a point in which that will become a conversation as Foster nears the end of his playing career.