While it doesn’t only happen with members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, it certainly appears in my admittedly partial view that it happens more frequently that former Steelers find themselves returning to the team unfulfilled by their experiences in other organizations.
The Steelers ended up reuniting with several former players just last season, re-signing safety Sean Davis, quarterback Joshua Dobbs, and tackle Jerald Hawkins by the second week of the regular season. Other notable players who have circled back over the years include Matt Spaeth, William Gay, Plaxico Burress, Bryant McFadden, and Larry Foote.
The latest reunion is with B.J. Finney, who may well end up being the Steelers’ starting center in 2021 following the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey. After five years in Pittsburgh, he signed with the Seattle Seahawks in free agency last year on a two-year, $8 million deal with a chance to start. Things didn’t work out well at all. He even ended up being traded to the Cincinnati Bengals, who released him earlier this year. Now he’s ready to reset back into Pittsburgh mode.
“‘Reset mode’ for me is just getting back to being in shape, being ready to roll,” he told Missi Matthews earlier this offseason for the team’s website. “Prior to 2020, knowing the system that Coach Canada wants to bring in and blend with Ben and just being back into that room and knowing the ins and outs, and just resetting to Pittsburgh. We’re excited, and I can’t wait.”
Undrafted out of Kansas State in 2015, Finney spent most of his rookie year on the practice squad before making the 53-man roster a year later. Over the course of the next four years, he would make 12 spot starts. Five came at left guard, five at center, and two at right guard.
Throughout that time, he was frequently referred to in terms such as ‘starter in waiting’. The starting position eyed out for him was at left guard, worked by Ramon Foster, whose career was winding down.
When it came time for the Steelers to re-sign him, however, they let him go in free agency rather than paying him at $4 million per season, which isn’t substantially more than they paid him in 2019 under a second-round restricted free agent tender.
After logging more than 1,000 played on offense in Pittsburgh, Finney didn’t see a single snap in Seattle or Cincinnati last year on offense, though he played a handful of snaps on special teams. Although a retread, he now has an opportunity to be a part of a ‘reset’ of the Steelers’ offensive line as well, which will perhaps prove to be good for both parties.