B.J. Finney originally signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers following the 2015 NFL Draft as a college free agent. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad, but has been on the 53-man roster for each of the past three seasons and has started at least two games each year, putting good work on tape.
Enough that the Steelers will have a difficult decision to make this offseason about the future—both immediate and slightly more long-term—of the left guard position. While Ramon Foster continues to play at a high level, he is 33 and scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, looking to be paid what he is worth for arguably the first time in his career.
With Finney a pending restricted free agent, that complicates things. While they can obviously easily give him a restricted free agent tender (but they would have to tag him at the second-round level to protect him beyond the right of first refusal), if he is going to be the starter, then they are going to want to sign him to a long-term contract before he gets a full year on tape and is able, potentially, to command a bigger contract.
That’s not what he’s spending his offseason worrying about, however, and all of that will likely be decided relatively soon once free agency gets underway. Being tagged as a restricted free agent of course would not mean that the Steelers can’t sign him to a long-term deal, either, so the situation can play out until Foster signs with a team, whether that is Pittsburgh or somebody else.
“I’m just kind of making sure I continue to develop. It’s all about understanding what you’re doing out there”, Finney said. could need or ask of him going forward. “Obviously, I feel like I am progressing and getting better every day”.
The former undrafted free agent has made multiple starts at all three interior offensive line positions, but his most successful performances have been at left guard in 2016 and 2017. That would obviously be where he would be playing if he inherits Foster’s job. And he believes that he is prepared for that role from a mental standpoint.
“Having an in-depth knowledge of the playbook is the biggest acceleration point for me”, he said. “The more I get into it, the more you have those ‘ah-ha’ moments and things that click, and you understand the finer details of it and are able to do some things that I wasn’t able to do beforehand”.
While he hasn’t been a starter yet, he has been around long enough to be a veteran, and somebody that not only his teammates but his coaches trust to step in and play at a high level, because they have already seen him do it multiple times over multiple seasons. Will he get that full-time opportunity, and the accompanying contract, in 2019?