It’s quite possible that by the time September of 2020 rolls around, B.J. Finney is going to be in the starting lineup, whether it is a left guard, center, or right guard. In fact, that seems fairly likely to happen. The bigger question—and less certain answer—is where that will be.
Finney, a 2015 undrafted free agent, has been on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 53-man roster for the past three years, and has started at least two games every year, with at least two starts coming at each of the three positions named above. He performed ‘above the line’ at each position, though center is where he had his least success.
There was a good chance that he would start at left guard this year before the Steelers were able to work out a new two-year contract for Ramon Foster. Pittsburgh had previously placed a second-round tender on the former college free agent, paying him about $3 million for 2019.
“Everybody wants to start”, Finney told Joe Rutter recently for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Realistically, that’s not everybody”, he went on. “You just kind of buy the opportunities you can get and make the most of them”.
The thing is, the Steelers do believe that he is capable of starting, and they also believe that other teams believe that he has the potential to start as well, which is why they placed the second-round tender on him. Using that tag would require any team trying to sign him to an offer sheet be willing to give up a second-round pick in exchange.
Finney, who will turn 28 in October, will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020, and frankly, given that he is already approaching 30, he is probably going to be looking for both a starting job and the starting salary that comes along with it.
Even though Foster is under contract for 2020, that doesn’t mean that the Steelers would shy away from signing Finney to a starter-worthy deal. The two might even compete for the starting job, or it might even be giving to him depending on how Foster, who will be 34 by when, looks.
Finney, outside of Alejandro Villanueva, is arguably the most noteworthy project of former Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak, although both Chris Hubbard and Matt Feiler, two other former college free agents that he developed, have started more games at this point in their careers.
Considering how much the team values him, will they be able to keep Finney around in 2020? It will have to come with a price, most likely, something that Foster acknowledged. “Depending on how this year goes, he might be signed as a right guard or somewhere else as a left guard”, he said in discussing his versatility, and the possibility that he takes that skill to another city after this season.
That said, Finney says that he’s “not looking forward”, but rather is “here in the moment with the team and trying to make the best 2019 that we can”. So this is a question for about 10 months from now.