The Pittsburgh Steelers have made their first outside free agent move of the year. Bringing center, B.J. Finney back into the fold. The move came to the surprise of nobody considering Finney’s ties to the team. The Steelers now have two players with starting center experience on the roster, the other being J.C. Hassenauer. While some people think those two can just duke it out to become the replacement for Maurkice Pouncey, I say the Steelers aren't done adding players to the position.
Starting off with the newly re-acquired Finney.
Finney took a massive step backward last season after signing a two-year eight million dollar deal in Seattle. Finney even said he didn't train particularly hard last offseason as to reduce his risk of injury. In doing so he would pass his physical, and not lose his signing bonus. This decision resulted in Finney tumbling down the Seahawks depth chart, for whom he was expected to be a starter. Finney would later be dealt to the Bengals at the trade deadline. Both of those teams had some of the worst offensive line play in the NFL, and Finney couldn't make a single start for either of them. In my eyes, Finney returns to his same role with the Steelers as the interior three backup.
Another reason why I wouldn't expect Finney to be handed a starting job is the contract he was (rumored) to have signed. As you can see from the Athletics Mark Kaboly’s tweet below, Finney only really accounts for $190K towards the salary cap and is just a vet minimum player.
No contract numbers on B.J. Finney deal yet but you would have to imagine it is for $990K but counts as $850K against the cap. With the displacement of Top 51, it would lower cap space by $190K. Could be a little signing bonus but regardless, very cheap addition.— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) March 12, 2021
Next, J.C. Hassenauer was just not very good last year, and is only coming back because of his status as an ERFA making league minimum. I anticipate he's more fighting for his job on the practice roster than as the Steelers starter.
I anticipate the Steelers will still be involved in the free agent center market. As much as I would hope the player they chase is reigning All-Pro Corey Linsley, they could pick up one of these second tier players on a next to no money contract. Nick Martin of the Houston Texans was released a few weeks back and is still yet to sign a contract. After the big money centers are gone, he could be had for a bargain price as a one year band-aid.
As for the draft, the Steelers have to decide if they want Ben Roethlisberger’s last year to be with a first year player. If the answer is yes, they may have to reach for one to actually land someone capable of starting day one. Landon Dickerson and Creed Humphrey have a high probability of not being available when the Steelers are on the clock in the second round. If they don't select either of them with their first round pick they may have to draft a second-tier player that is not ready to make the jump on day one. The draft is a big roll of the dice, and they may be wise to sign someone anyway.
But what do you think? Who will start at center on Week 1 for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.