Former Steelers interior lineman, B.J. Finney, became current Steelers, interior lineman, B.J. Finney on Friday when he and the team agreed to a one-year deal for the 2021 season.
Finney, who was traded to the Bengals last season after initially beginning the 2020 campaign in Seattle where he signed a two-year, $8 million contract last spring, was released by Cincinnati on March 5. Soon after Finney’s release, it almost seemed inevitable that the Steelers would at least get in touch with a player they signed as an undrafted free agent and then developed into a very valuable and versatile backup interior lineman capable of playing guard or center in a pinch.
The Steelers obviously did and took it a step further by inking Finney to a deal.
So what does this mean for Pittsburgh? Does it mean that the search for Maurkice Pouncey’s replacement at center is over? Does this mean the Steelers won’t try and find a more capable veteran to play the position once true free agency kicks off next week? Does this mean center is off the table during the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft?
Don’t be silly. It doesn’t have to mean any of those things. All the Finney signing has to be right now is the return of a player who once gave Pittsburgh quality depth along the interior of the offensive line. Why? Because finding a player like that was a priority heading into the 2021 offseason. Yes, the Steelers needed to find some answers at the top of the depth chart, but they also needed to find some depth.
Finney may at the very least provide that. Think of B.J. Finney as this year’s Stefen Wisniewski, who was brought in last spring to be the 2020 version of B.J. Finney.
Could Finney wind up being more than that for the Steelers in 2021, namely their starting center? One never knows, but I do know there was a time when folks wanted Pittsburgh to move on from Pouncey or former guard Ramon Foster and promote Finney to a starting role.
In fact, some were disappointed when Finney signed with the Seahawks last spring. So what happened with Finney in Seattle? Why didn’t he take advantage of his big opportunity, an opportunity that was supposed to make him a well-paid starting offensive lineman? Why did Finney reportedly show up to training camp last summer out of shape? Why did he not start a single game in Seattle or Cincinnati?
These are all bright red flags, no doubt. Maybe Finney just doesn’t want it bad enough. Maybe he’s regressing.
Or, maybe, for the Steelers’ sake, he just had a hard time adjusting to life on the other side of the country, an adjustment that was perhaps made even more difficult due to a worldwide pandemic that shut everything down—including NFL facilities—right around the time Finney made his big life decision. He couldn’t meet with his new coaches. He couldn’t meet with his new teammates. Everything had to be done virtually. He had to work out on his own. He had to learn on his own. Not everyone can excel in that environment.
Heck, it could be that Finney can only thrive in one place, and that place is Pittsburgh. Now that he’s back in more familiar surroundings, perhaps he can at least get his career back to the point where he’s a valuable backup interior lineman.
Who knows what role B.J. Finney will wind up serving for the Steelers in 2021—or if he’ll serve any role at all? But the Steelers need a lot of help along the offensive line, and they have to start somewhere.
Nothing wrong with starting with the backups.