While B.J. Finney has said that he would love to remain with the Pittsburgh Steelers at the end of this free agent process that is set to begin soon, it’s also clear that he would love the chance to be a starter. He has taken pride in being the ‘next man up’ and coming off the bench over the course of the past four years, but nobody comes into the league with the mission of being a career backup.
And there is also a certain amount of clarity and stability that comes with being a starter that you simply don’t get when you are number two on the depth chart at your position. It can be maddening to ‘prepare like a starter’ week after week and never get to play—and then suddenly you do, and you almost don’t know what to do. And on top of that, you don’t even get the starter’s reps to prepare.
“There is a little more anxiety, a little more angst when you are stepping in as opposed to starting”, he recently told Teresa Varley for the team’s website. “When you are starting you have all of the reps throughout the week. You are able to lock in on that position. You aren’t tracking so much at one position as you are at the three. It’s a lot nicer when you start, but I am proud how I stepped up whenever I was called upon”.
Over the course of the past four seasons, Finney has been called upon on 12 separate occasions to enter the starting lineup. Five of those starts have come at left guard, five at center—including three last season, two as part of Maurkice Pouncey’s suspension—and two at right guard.
When he has played, he has drawn praise, both internally and externally. Mike Tomlin has called him out for special acknowledgement several times after he has started, and has been a positive contributor to their 10-2 record in the games he’s started for them. Outlets like Pro Football Focus have also written favorably about his abilities.
The question that remains, however, is what is his market? And will the Steelers be a part of it? It’s hard to see them in it if they do not release Ramon Foster, because then, after all, there will not be a place for him to start. And without Foster’s cap savings, there may not be money to sign him, anyway.
When he was a restricted free agent last season, the team did not hesitate to put the second-round tender on the former undrafted free agent, even though it meant paying him more. They did not want to risk losing him, so they took extra precautions to prevent him.
In doing so, however, they also delayed the ultimate question, which is whether or not he will have a starting job in Pittsburgh. The time to answer that question is almost upon them, and if the answer is no, they should expect to see him in a different jersey in 2020. Maybe a Chiefs jersey.