In maybe the most predictable move of the offseason, the moment the Cincinnati Bengals released B.J. Finney, you knew the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to be picking up the phone. What we didn’t know is how long it would take for them to make the call. As Finney himself told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com, it didn’t take long at all.
“It was within a couple of days of being released by Cincinnati that Mr. (Kevin) Colbert and Omar (Khan) reached out to my agents,” said Finney. “They were like Pittsburgh is interested in bringing you back. We can work out the details and see what takes place. A couple of other teams were interested but didn’t know what they had with the salary cap and so forth. We were stern and said tell us what you are going to offer, or I will be on a plane to Pittsburgh. Fast forward a couple of days and I was headed back to Pittsburgh.”
When you read Finney’s half of the story, it certainly seemed as if Pittsburgh was the only destination for him after failed stints with the Seattle Seahawks, who signed him in free agency after he left Pittsburgh, and the Bengals. Why would it be the only destination for Finney and his family? Outside of being a life long Steelers fan, Pittsburgh is now where he calls home.
“Honestly, it’s like coming home,” said Finney. “You can’t wait to get home, so we are excited to be back. My family and I are excited to be back. Hopefully everything plays out well.”
Finney has been though it all since leaving the team who picked him up as an undrafted rookie free agent. Signing a lucrative deal with Seattle seemed like a step forward for a player who had been relegated to backup duty his entire time in the NFL. Nonetheless, despite his challenges and being away from his former teammates, he still kept tabs on the black and gold.
“You can never fully get away from anything with all of the friends and family we have on the team,” said Finney. “Last year we were keeping tabs on everybody, checking in on everyone to make sure they were doing all right, keeping the lines of communication open. When you still have friends and family on the team, you are still going to follow it.”
Fast forward to today and you have Finney rejoining a team he is comfortable with, but outside of the organization not much is the same. New offensive coordinator, new offensive line coach and even the vast majority of his former teammates are now elsewhere.
“We had that same crew of guys for my entire five years on the line and now it’s potentially just Dave (DeCastro) and I left out of the original seven,” said Finney. “I went from being the youngest in the room to now the second oldest I believe. Just one year removed it all changes so fast. There is always learning to be done, especially with new players and coaches, just figuring out how to do things.”
So what does 2021 have in store for Finney? Are the Steelers expecting him to be the Day 1 starter at center? Is he coming back just to be a depth piece, like he used to be? Will it all hinge on the success, of failure, of the 2021 NFL Draft? Finney says head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t mince words with him when talking about expectations.
“They just painted it with a broad-brush stroke,” said Finney. “Coach Tomlin told me my fate is in my hands and we will see where it leads. We always have control over it. It’s just a matter of opportunities rolling our way. It’s nice to be in more control than I had prior to.
“If that is where they want me to play, at center, I will accept the challenge. That is a legacy that is hard to live up to in Pittsburgh with all of the great centers we have been fortunate to have as an organization. To throw my name into the ring, to have the opportunity to be one of those centers, is amazing in itself. It’s not something to be taken lightly, and I am not. I want to do the best that I can, and the best I know how to do it is how I have been raised to do it. Coach T knows that and sees that, and we will see where it leads.”
Someone will have to fill the giant shoes left by Maurkice Pouncey when he retired. Will that person be Finney? Only time will tell, but Finney is happy to be back in Pittsburgh, and the fan base is hoping he can regain the form which got him that lucrative contract in Seattle. If he can do that, the offensive line might just be okay in 2021.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the rest of Free Agency and the upcoming NFL Draft.