The Pittsburgh Steelers have, perhaps, just one more game to play. And perhaps, B.J. Finney will be starting one more game for the team before he can find a full-time starting job in 2020. With Maurkice Pouncey having already been ruled out for Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, the fourth-year veteran interior reserve will be making his fourth start of the season, and third at center.
Of course, Finney started two other games in place of Pouncey this season when the latter was missing time due to suspension. The Steelers won both of those games; in fact, they have only lost one of the dozen or so starts that he has made over the past four seasons, at both guard positions and center.
Originally signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2015 NFL Draft, Finney was injured at the end of his rookie preseason and was waived, but later re-signed to the practice squad. By the end of the season, the team was paying him a roster-equivalent salary, likely because a team wanted to sign him.
In a few months’ time, the 31 other teams in the league will finally, likely, get their crack at doing so when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Though he grew up a Steelers fan and loves playing here, there is also the reality that he is already 28 years old. If he is ever going to get the opportunity to cash in on his football career, it’s going to be in March.
And Sunday’s game may be the final opportunity to add to his tape reel before other teams have the opportunity to extend him contract offers. He has primarily worked at guard over the years, so the more tape he is able to get of himself playing at center, the better off he figures to be.
One thing the Steelers have now known for years is that Finney is a starting-caliber lineman, and he can start at any three of the interior line positions—a fact that he strengthened this season with his play at center.
But it’s likely that he will not fit well into their pay structure next season, unless they want to part with Ramon Foster (and I know there’s an unsilent portion of the fanbase entirely in support of this route), and that would be the only spot open for a starting job in 2020 and beyond.
The fact that the team has lost both Fred Johnson and Patrick Morris off waivers during the season has been frustrating, but perhaps not enough to convince them to go out of their character to keep Finney. A backup, after all, is easier to replace than a starter. They do seem to like J.C. Hassenauer as well.