The retirement of 11-year veteran center Maurkice Pouncey earlier this offseason left a massive hole in the middle of the offensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not too long ago, that line was arguably the strongest unit on the entire team. Some will argue that it was time to open up that hole anyway. But regardless of how we got here, the hole is there.
So far, the Steelers haven’t done a lot to address that unit, at least in terms of pedigree. But they have signed three offensive linemen as unrestricted or street free agents, one of them being B.J. Finney, who spent the first five years of his career in Pittsburgh.
If the season were to begin today, he would almost surely be in the starting lineup. Finney has 13 starts under his belt over the course of his career, though more came at guard than center. He recently spoke with Teresa Varley for the team’s website, and said that the team more or less left it open as to whether or not he would start.
“They just painted it with a broad-brush stroke”, he said. “Coach Tomlin told me my fate is in my hands and we will see where it leads. We always have control over it. It’s just a matter of opportunities rolling our way. It’s nice to be in more control than I had prior to”.
It wasn’t so long ago that a number of Steelers fans were referring to Finney as a starter in waiting. That, though, was under the assumption that he would succeed Ramon Foster at the left guard position. Instead, he signed with the Seattle Seahawks in free agency, and Matt Feiler took over.
Now, Feiler is gone, signing a three-year, $21 million contract with the Los Angeles Chargers. Finney is back after what was no doubt a frustrating and disappointing year. During the season, Seattle traded him to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“If that is where they want me to play, at center, I will accept the challenge”, he said, about the potential of starting at center. “That is a legacy that is hard to live up to in Pittsburgh with all of the great centers we have been fortunate to have as an organization. To throw my name into the ring, to have the opportunity to be one of those centers, is amazing in itself. It’s not something to be taken lightly, and I am not”.
I’m not sure there is another team in the league who has a more robust and remarkable history at the center position than do the Steelers. Two of them are in the Hall of Fame in Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson, with Pouncey perhaps to follow. And that’s not even mentioning names like Ray Mansfield and Jeff Hartings.