Nobody likes being a backup. Or, at least, not a lot of people do. If you’re a professional athlete, chances are you chose that profession because you have a love for the game, and you want to be able to participate.
Only about half of every team’s roster actually gets the opportunity to be a ‘starter’, whether on offense, defense, or special teams, though many beyond that still have roles. Some backups, however, are strictly on a ‘break glass in an emergency’ basis for playing time.
Quarterback is the biggest position for which that holds true. The line on both sides of the ball also have a hard time getting on the field. The bottom of the depth chart is typically where much of the gameday inactive list is culled from, but at least for the defensive line, there is a rotation.
For the offensive line, you dress seven, but for many teams, only five player. Every snap. With the Pittsburgh Steelers, you do get Zach Banner logging a lot of time as a tackle-eligible, though even in this situation, it’s driven largely by a lack of quality depth at the tight end position—they only dress two.
The Steelers are fortunate to have some quality depth along the offensive line, though, and there is none more quality than B.J. Finney, who in four seasons with the team has made 10 starts at three different positions, and is in line to start the next two games for Maurkice Pouncey at center while he serves a two-game suspension.
Finney started a game earlier this year when Ramon Foster missed time, but curiously, only one of the team games the left guard missed. For the other, the team decided to move their right guard to left tackle and start a backup tackle.
There is no real alternative for center, though. The only other lineman with meaningful experience at center is Patrick Morris, who was just called up from the practice squad. “As a professional athlete, obviously, any time you don’t get to play, it motivates you”, Finney admitted. “I don’t like sitting on the sideline, but, honestly, that’s my job right now”.
It might not be for much longer, a decision that may largely come down to his personal preference. While he grew up a Steelers fan and even cried tears of joy when he signed with them as a college free agent, he has the opportunity to hit the open market in 2020.
A starting job with the starting salary to go along with it would be a hard thing to pass up for him, to be sure, and he may not be able to wait anymore for Foster to hang it up. This is his best chance to cash in, and to find a starting job. It’s far from assured that Pittsburgh will be the best opportunity for him to do that. Especially for someone who acknowledges that sitting on the bench is motivating…motivating to stop that from happening.