Putting together a team is by no means solely nor primarily about what you are able to add to the group year in and year out. More than anything, it’s about the pieces that you are able to keep together for a period of years, acquiring talent and giving them the structure to develop together into a cohesive unit.
By and large, the Pittsburgh Steelers do this better than most, and they return among the most snaps from the 2019 season as they head into this year, but they have still lost some significant players from a year ago, some of whom have been with the team for a while, like Ramon Foster, Javon Hargrave, Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo, and others.
Now that we’ve introduced you to all of the new faces that the Steelers have added to the team since the end of last season, it’s time to take stock of who is gone since then, and what their departure—whether by the team’s will or not—will impact their success or failure in 2020 and beyond.
Player: OL B.J. Finney
Years Played: 4 (4 in Pittsburgh)
Snaps Played: 325 (1023 career)
B.J. Finney played a career-high in snaps during the 2019 season, a player who had for years been informally regarded as a starter in waiting, most likely in line to replace Ramon Foster once he retired, if not soon. Then Foster retired this offseason…and Finney left in free agency.
Before he did, however, he made 12 starts (plus one ‘start’ as an extra lineman) during his time in Pittsburgh, including four last season, one coming at left guard while Foster was injured (Matt Feiler started another game that Foster missed in what proved to be a sign of things to come) and three at center, two due to Maurkice Pouncey being suspended and once due to him being injured. In all, he has five starts at center, five at left guard, and two at right guard, for a total of over 1000 snaps over the past four years.
That’s a lot of value, and the Steelers showed him in 2019 how much they valued him, then as a player with eight career starts, including just two in 2018, by giving him a second-round-level restricted free agent tender, rather than risking another team signing him.
Every game that Finney has played in or started, he has played admirably, if not very well. He showed a surprising adeptness to pulling from the guard position for a player of his size, and that was one of the reasons some were looking forward to seeing him enter the starting lineup.
For the moment, trying to pick up here and there, it sounds as though Finney is competing for the starting center position for the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson, working with Ethan Pocic. He may be the slight favorite, but evidently some are surprised that it’s been turning into a competition.
They signed Finney two a two-year deal worth $8 million in March. The Steelers signed Stefen Wisniewski to a two-year deal worth much less than that, and got a player with over 100 starts.