The Pittsburgh Steelers have had arguably the best offensive line in the NFL over the course of the past five seasons, and certainly last year, even if the Los Angeles Rams somehow received that honor from the NFL. But they face an offseason in which they have to make some decisions—some of which have already been made.
The big decision was out of their hands. As much as they efforted to retain Mike Munchak after five seasons as their offensive line coach, that decision was ultimately out of their hands as he was given an opportunity to work in the same city as his daughter, and closer to his other daughter as well, who lives on the west coast.
So they forge on ahead with Shaun Sarrett, who has been an assistant offensive line coach for the past seven seasons, along with Adrian Klemm, who was just brought on board to help out. But which linemen will they be coaching?
According to Pro Football Focus, the Steelers have two of the top 10 offensive linemen scheduled to be free agents this offseason, those being starting left guard Ramon Foster and his top backup, B.J. Finney. The latter, of course, is a restricted free agent, but as a former college free agent, the Steelers would have to tag him at a second-round level in order to receive any compensation for him.
In an article evaluating the free agents scheduled to be available along the offensive line, PFF listed Foster as the seventh-best and Finney the 10th-best linemen for 2019. The Steelers were the only team to have multiple players featured in the article.
“Foster has been the model of consistency and a fixture on the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line for the past nine seasons”, Ben Linsey wrote. “His 8,715 snaps over that span are more than any other guard in the NFL. Foster had an uncharacteristic down year in 2017 but responded with an overall grade of 69.1 in 2018 that ranked sixth among 37 qualifying left guards. If he doesn’t end up returning to the top offensive line in the NFL this past season, his services will surely be sought out around the league as a proven veteran starter”.
I agree with his assessment that Foster had a down season in 2017 and that 2018 was an improvement. It helped that he didn’t miss any games—in fact, I don’t think he missed any snaps—though he did have a training camp injury.
“Finney is probably the most unknown of the commodities on this list after three partial seasons in which he has been stuck behind Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, and David DeCastro”, the article reads. “When he has played, though, he has been steady and reliable, grading at 72.8 in 2016, 66.4 in 2017 and 71.5 in 2018. In the last two seasons, Finney has allowed just five pressures in 234 regular season pass-blocking snaps. That’s a track record that indicates he’s deserving of a starting role somewhere in 2019”.