If 2019 is B.J. Finney’s year to step into the starting lineup on a full-time basis, then one can’t say that he hasn’t been trained for it. Originally a college free agent following the 2015 NFL Draft, he spent his rookie season on the practice squad after being brought back following an injury late in the preseason.
He made the 53-man roster outright in 2016, and he would see his most extensive action that year as the top backup due to an injury that wiped out Cody Wallace’s season. Starting left guard Ramon Foster missed two starts that year due to injury, first against the Kansas City Chiefs and then later in the season against the Buffalo Bills.
The Steelers had two of their best offensive showings of the season in those games, particularly in the ground game. Against the Bills, Le’Veon Bell rushed for over 200 yards. The Chiefs game was Bell’s first after serving a three-game suspension, but he managed well over 100 yards to cap off a 43-14 blowout.
He didn’t have nearly as much success in his final start of the season when he served as the replacement for Maurkice Pouncey with the Pro Bowler getting the game off in the finale. He looked less comfortable at center, even though that was his primary position in college, and Danny Shelton proved a handful.
Finney also made two starts at left guard in 2017, both of them big wins once again, first against the Baltimore Ravens back in Week Four and then against the Houston Texans in the penultimate game. The Ravens game featured another strong rushing effort, though they had a more difficult time running the ball against the Texans’ defense. Ben Roethlisberger proved to be more than enough, though, in yet another game in which he wasn’t sacked.
The final game of the season once again saw Finney taking over Pouncey’s spot in a meaningless regular season finale against the Browns, lining up at center. This time he started out better, but he had to leave the game in the second quarter due to an injury, so we don’t know how much better he would have looked there.
Of course, Finney started two games at right guard in 2018 for David DeCastro after he suffered a hand injury in the season opener. The first of those two games came in Pittsburgh hosting the explosive Chiefs offense.
That was the only game of Finney’s eight starts that the Steelers have lost, and it wasn’t because of the offense, which put up 37 points on the afternoon, including 475 total yards of offense, though the running game was almost non-existent largely because they were consistently playing from a trail position.
They didn’t rush much against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a week later, either, but again, the passing game carried the day. Roethlisberger threw for nearly 800 yards combined between those two games, though he did take four total sacks.
Finney’s early career mirrors that of Foster’s somewhat, the man that he may be replacing this year. Foster was the guy who was always there ready to step up when they needed somebody, and that’s what Finney has been before he got the chance to show it on a full-time basis. Will that be the case in 2019 as he enters his age-28 season?