The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: B.J. Finney has been demoted to third-string guard.
Explanation: The veteran was inactive for Sunday’s game for the first time this season, and it just so happened to come in the game that he would have actually been needed, as both guards went down due to injury. He had played all of the necessary guard snaps lost to injury by the starters in the previous 11 games, but J.C. Hassenauer logged 54 snaps on Sunday.
How else do you explain the fact that he was inactive? He’s not on the injury report this week, so it’s not like there was a sudden injury issue. Nobody even brought him up after the game, as happened in the opener when Robert Spillane was scratched before kickoff.
He was just inactive because the Steelers decided that they could have Hassenauer play guard as well as center with equal efficiency—and Hassenauer did play well overall in filling in for Kevin Dotson on Sunday after replacing the starter.
In reality, he may even be the fourth-string guard, and Joe Haeg also had to play since they decided to dress Zach Banner as the eighth lineman. They wouldn’t have done that if they didn’t think Haeg could give them quality snaps at guard.
Who dresses for games as swing reserves and who actually plays when there are injuries are not always the same thing. Matt Feiler wasn’t dressing for games until Marcus Gilbert went down, but then he was the one who started. Banner was the swing tackle in 2019, but when Feiler missed a game, Chukwuma Okorafor dressed for the first and only time that season, and started the game.
If the Steelers knew Dotson was going to get hurt, which of course they didn’t, Finney would have dressed. They just thought that they could get away with him being inactive in order to give Banner a chance to get a helmet. Expect to see Finney starting at left guard until Dotson returns, unless he really struggles and gets passed over.