2019 Offseason Questions: Are RFA Tags A Bad Omen For Steelers Keeping Veteran UFAs?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.

How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Are the Steelers’ restricted free agent tender decisions bad omens for the relevant pending unrestricted free agents?

We learned over the course of the past 24 hours that the Steelers elected to place restricted free agent tenders on a pair of fourth-year players, tight end Xavier Grimble and interior offensive lineman B.J. Finney. While the latter was a no-brainer, the fact that he was tagged at a second-round level was a bit less so.

Grimble has never really been used as more than a third-string tight end during his three seasons on the Steelers’ 53-man roster. Though he does have a niche role on the team—or has had one—his workload over that span doesn’t necessarily indicate a justification for a $2 million tag.

As for Finney, he is more of a starter-in-waiting, and it’s a distinct possibility that he won’t be waiting very long. He has made several starts at left guard—in addition to two each at right guard and center—and performed at a starter level.

But the fact that these moves were made could make one wonder what it says about the team’s belief in their ability to retain tight end Jesse James and left guard Ramon Foster. James has been a spot starter and strong number two tight end, while Foster has been a solid starter for a number of years in an underappreciated fashion.

While owner Art Rooney II and general manager Kevin Colbert have previously hinted at a seeming degree of confidence in being able to retain both of them, those comments were made an aeon ago at this point relative to the flow of the offseason, and these moves could indicate a downswing in optimism.

For now, it seems as though James and Foster will both have the opportunity to test the open market at the very least, and perhaps even move on. But even if the team ends up retaining one or the other, they have taken steps to protect themselves in the event that they are unable to work something out.

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