Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin did not have any answers for us regarding the immediate future of left guard Ramon Foster, who went down with what was described as a lower body injury in the first padded practice of the year yesterday. According to Ian Rapoport, however, the injury is “not thought to be serious”.
Until we know for certain what his status is, there will be worry that he could miss extended time, or perhaps even the season in the worst-case scenario. The good news is that, for however long Foster might be out, the Steelers’ top interior reserve has already had several quality starts at left guard.
B.J. Finney made five of seven career starts over the past two years at that spot, and played quite well in most of them, and at least competently in all. Tomlin was asked if the third-year interior reserve is capable of being a core starter should he have to replace Foster for any length of time. “He’s proven that over the last couple of years when given the opportunity to play”, he said.
The third-year player slid into Foster’s spot for the remainder of practice yesterday and figures to be the player to step up until the veteran returns, if he returns. While the depth behind the starting group would suddenly become much more questionable, the Steelers have confidence in Finney’s ability to get the job done.
Originally an undrafted free agent in 2015 out of Kansas State, he suffered an injury in the preseason finale, but signed to the practice squad when healthy. By the end of the season, other teams were approaching him, as evidenced by the fact that the Steelers raised his salary to the equivalent of that of a rostered player.
He made the team in 2016 and became the primary interior reserve after Cody Wallace was injured in the preseason. His first start came in Week Four that year against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was an active part of a dominant offense that led the way for 144 rushing yards from Le’Veon Bell and a 300-yard, five-touchdown day from Ben Roethlisberger.
Finney started again toward the end of the season on the road against the Buffalo Bills, and helped Bell rush this time for 236 yards and three touchdowns. Roethlisberger did not do nearly as well (though he was not sacked), but clearly the game—in the snow—was determined on the ground.
He would go on to start three games in place of Foster last season as well. He started two games at center in each of those years, and the Steelers have won all seven of those contests, scoring at least 26 points in all but one of them—a 19-14 victory his local Chiefs in Kansas City.
Because he has already proven that the offense can hum without missing a beat in the starting lineup, the Steelers are confident in Finney as their top interior reserve, whether he is required for a short stint or a longer haul. What that means for the subsequent depth is another matter, but that’s another topic.