B.J. Finney is back in Pittsburgh with the team that drafted him after what was no doubt the most chaotic year of his life. Following an unintentional free agency tour that took him to Seattle and then Cincinnati, he has circled back to the Steelers. Now with Maurkice Pouncey retiring, he’s got his eyes on the prize.
“With David DeCastro really being the only returning starter, everything’s open, everybody’s competing for a spot”, he told reporters earlier following the final OTA session of the week. “It doesn’t matter where it’s at on the board. It’s always up for grabs. So, I’m coming into with a vet presence and the experience that I have, and I’m going to do my best to be a starter come day one”.
A college free agent originally signed in 2015 out of Kansas State, Finney spent his rookie season on the practice squad before making the 53-man roster the following year and sticking for good. He would log 12 starts over the following four years, including five at center, plus five at left guard and two more at right guard.
He started three games for Pouncey during the 2019 season in what was an exhibition that likely helped him earn a free agency contract the following year that took him to the Seattle Seahawks. For a multitude of reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic that limited his ability to work out, things didn’t work out there, and he was traded to the Cincinnati Bengals, who let him go earlier this offseason.
The Steelers wasted little time bringing him back to address their lack of depth at center in the wake of Pouncey’s retirement, joining J.C. Hassenauer as their center-capable group. But his primary competition for a starting center job would be rookie third-round pick Kendrick Green.
The Steelers were quite high on the Illinois product, which is no doubt one of the reasons they were willing to pass on other centers like Creed Humphrey, knowing that there were still other talented players they rated highly. Presumably, the rookie is the favorite to win the job.
It is notable that Finney didn’t limit his horizons to center, however. While it’s been widely assumed that second-year Kevin Dotson would be taking over at left guard, the reality is that that position is in flux as well, and if he is indeed to start there, it will be because he earned the right to do so this offseason.
What it all boils down to is competition, and that’s a good thing. The team does have a new offensive line coach with a new mentality, so it should only be fitting that the group is more open and unsettled at this time of year as they figure out the best alignment.