While the Pittsburgh Steelers may not have a starting offensive line to be envious of, what they do have is pretty reasonable depth, under the circumstances, players who can step in and more or less keep up a similar level of play.
Since the return of Zach Banner from the Reserve/Injured List, their four backups have consisted of Banner, Joe Haeg, B.J. Finney, and J.C. Hassenauer. Of the four, only Banner is a single-position player, the latter two being center-guards and Haeg being a tackle-guard.
In a surprise move last week, the Steelers dressed Banner over Finney. They both dressed this past Sunday due to starter Kevin Dotson being injured, Hassenauer starting in his place. When Hassenauer was injured, however, Haeg came in instead of Finney.
Asked on Tuesday if Finney was physically prepared to contribute, head coach Mike Tomlin said, “Yes, he is”. He would not go into specifics about why he was not playing when there have been injuries, or even why he was inactive, beyond saying that they have decisions they must make each week.
“Joe is very versatile. He’s played a lot, has started a lot, as has B.J.”, he said of Haeg and Finney. “We’ve got tough decisions to make at times when we decide who we go to. We don’t run away from those decisions. We run to them. We’re appreciative of the fact that we’ve got multiple guys to choose from in those circumstances”.
The offensive line is one of those positions where, except in rare instances, you’re either starting, or you’re not playing at all unless there are injuries. It makes it more difficult to evaluate players’ positions within the team in such cases.
Tomlin here, though, appears to be giving Finney a vote of confidence, basically saying that there would be no wrong answer in terms of whom they would choose to turn to as a backup, between himself and Haeg—and Hassenauer, for that matter, who was the next man up at left guard, based on the fact that he started.
Suffering a pectoral injury, Tomlin said that Hassenauer’s status entering the work week could be categorized as questionable, so it’s unclear whether or not he will be available. I would guess that Haeg would start if he can’t go, but…maybe not.
If they take any interest in the minutiae of the compensatory pick formula, they would be wary of playing Haeg, who is already over a snap percentage threshold on the season that would result in costing them a compensatory pick. If they truly believe they’re both capable—and Finney has started a dozen games for them in the past, after all—then it might be worth taking into consideration.