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Next Three Games Could Be Career-Altering For Steelers OL B.J. Finney

What’s going to happen with Pittsburgh Steelers backup center B.J. Finney after the 2019 season is over with? It’s hard to say for sure right now but barring something changing between now and the start of the 2020 NFL league year in March, Finney is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Ahead of all that, however, Finney will start Sunday at against the Cincinnati Bengals in place of Maurkice Pouncey, assuming his entire three-game suspension isn’t overturned via appeal. Finney might even go on to start the following two games at center as well if Pouncey’s full suspension length sticks. If that’s indeed the case Finney will have a three-game stretch to increase his market value not only to the Steelers, but potentially to other teams as well.

To date, Finney, who signed originally with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State, has played 819 total offensive snaps, which isn’t even the equivalent of a full NFL season. Additionally, while he is listed as officially starting 10 games so far in his NFL career, only two of those starts came at center. Most of his playing time on offense has come at either guard positions. While Finney has shown in previous playing time that he can potentially be a starting guard in the NFL, the jury’s still out on if he can be a starting center. If he plays well at center in how every many starts he gets until Pouncey returns, he’ll potentially strengthen his market value tremendously in the process.

Finney was retained by the Steelers this past offseason via a second-round restricted free agent tender and that resulted in him earning a base salary in 2019 of $3.095 million. should the Steelers ultimately decide they’d like to keep Finney past this season, they might need to pay him more than the $3.095 million he made this season and make him their new starting left guard. Such a re-signing would also likely need to take place prior to Finney becoming an unrestricted free agent in March so that he doesn’t get a chance to retain offers from other teams. Additionally, re-signing Finney would likely result in the Steelers needing to part ways with their longtime starting left guard, Ramon Foster, who is currently under contract for the 2020 season at a $4 million base salary. Foster, by the way, will turn 34 in January.

It is worth pointing out that Finney’s potential future as the team’s starting left guard beginning in 2020 seemingly took a bit of a hit a few weeks ago when the coaching staff decided to let starting right tackle Matt Feiler start at left guard against the Los Angeles Rams in place of a concussed Foster. That decision was made because the coaching staff wanted a bigger tackle-like player inside to help defend against the league’s best interior defensive lineman, Aaron Donald. Finney had started in place of Foster the game prior to the one against the Rams and as usual, represented himself well at left guard and especially in the pass protecting department.

Finney has never started three consecutive games so far during his NFL career and that will likely change in the next three weeks if Pouncey’s suspension length isn’t shortened. Sunday against the Bengals, Finney will be tasked with helping defend against their top defensive tackle, Geno Atkins, who leads his team in sacks entering Week 12 with 4.5. That should be a matchup worth paying close attention to Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati and a dominate performance by Finney in that contest will certainly put him on the radar of other NFL teams more so than he already is now.

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