Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: OL B.J. Finney
Stock Value: Even
It’s hard not to feel as though fourth-year veteran offensive lineman B.J. Finney is in something of a purgatory. Now in his fifth offseason with the team, the former college free agent has started nine games, including five at left guard, and played at a high level doing it, yet he has not yet had the opportunity to crack the starting lineup.
He can thank the skill and longevity of another player who came along half a decade before him under similar circumstances for that. Ramon Foster, a 2009 college free agent signing, has carved out going on an 11-year career through his hard work, and he was re-signed on a two-year contract to continue to man the left guard position that Finney hopes one day will be his—perhaps with the Steelers, or perhaps somewhere else in 2020.
The Steelers did offer him a second-round restricted free agent tender, which shows both that they believe in his abilities and that they are concerned about potentially losing him. It’s not a secret that they view him as a ‘starter in waiting’, but how much longer will he wait, and how long is he willing to?
Sometimes it’s not just enough to be good enough to have a starting job. You also need to have the opportunity, and Finney just hasn’t had it yet because of the quality of the team’s linemen over the course of his stay. His other two potential spots at center and right guard are manned by a couple of All-Pros in Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro, under contract through 2021 in both cases.
The only way that I can really see Finney remaining with the Steelers in 2020 is if the front office makes it clear to him that, as a worst-case scenario, he will be given the opportunity to compete with Foster for the starting left guard job.
Let’s make one thing clear. Finney is going to turn 28 years old already in October. That’s not old for an offensive lineman, but he’s not a young guy. He’s going to want a starting job sooner rather than later. The Steelers are making him wait on one, or at least so it seems.