The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line has literally been a tale of two stories during the Mike Tomlin era. From 2007 to 2013 the Steelers offensive line building philosophy could best be described as “Plug and Patch.”
Both injuries and ineffectiveness forced the Steelers to rotate offensive lineman in and out of the lineup as if they were playing musical chairs.
- Off the field, lineman would be routinely signed and cut long before their contracts came due.
That began to change in 2014, in part because of the arrival of Mike Munchak and in part because the organization made a commitment to offensive line building.
The shift has seen the Steelers field strong starting offensive lines backed by impressive depth. The 2019 free agency signing period promises to test that dynamic, and the case of restricted free agent B.J. Finney serves as a perfect example.
Capsule Profile of B.J. Steelers Career
B.J. Finney joined the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2015 and spent the year on the practice squad.
In 2016, B.J. Finney made the active roster and saw action in relief of injured Ramon Foster against Philadelphia and started the following week against Kansas City in a game that saw Le’Veon Bell explode for 144 yards on the ground. B.J. Finney would also start against Buffalo in the game where Le’Veon Bell broke the Steelers regular season rushing record. Finney also worked at center in the season finale against Cleveland.
In 2017, B.J. Finney started again against Kansas City, Houston and in the season finale against Cleveland. In 2018, appeared in all 16 games and started the contests against the Buccaneers and the Chiefs.
The Case for the Steelers Resigning B.J. Finney
As Pittsburgh painfully learned in the early part of the Tomlin era, you can never have enough good offensive lineman.
And B.J. Finney is a good offensive lineman, who has proven himself as a solid starter at both guard and one who has the position flexibility to play at center if the need should arise. While the Steelers starting front five is arguably the NFL’s best, the unit’s collective age is creeping up.
- At age 27, B.J. Finney offers Pittsburgh both youth and proven experience.
The wise move would not only to tender Finney so that he stays around in 2019, but to sign him to a long term contract to keep him in Pittsburgh long after that.
Because if the Steelers only offer B.J. Finney a restricted free agent tender, he’ll likely be too expensive to resign in a year’s time. The Steelers should take steps to keep B.J. Finney in Pittsburgh for what promises to be the prime of his career.
The Case Against the Steelers Resigning B.J. Finney
If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
Art Rooney II has said he wants to see the entire Steelers offensive line return, and that would imply the team resigning Ramon Foster. And unless Ramon Foster is disposed to offer the Steelers a generous home team discount, that means that finding money to tender B.J. Finney could be prohibitive.
In that context, a long term contract would become luxury the Steelers cannot afford.
Curtain’s Call on the Steelers and B.J. Finney
As a restricted free agent, B.J. Finney isn’t going anywhere. The Steelers most certainly will make him a qualifying tender, the only question is at what level that tender will amount to.
The Steelers have no doubt considered offering a long-term deal to Finney, but whether they proceed along those lines likely depends on what they do with Ramon Foster.
The Steelers seem intent on breaking the stream of steady bad news created by the Antonio Brown soap opera (and his subsequent pot-shots at Ben Roethlisberger) with the feel good story that would be created by resigning Ramon Foster.
Hopefully, Kevin Colbert can find a way to ensure that an either/or situation doesn’t arise between keeping Ramon Foster and B.J. Finney, but if it does the franchise should focus on signing B.J. Finney to a long term contract.
With that said, the likely outcome is an extension for Foster and a restricted free agent tender that keeps B.J. Finney in Pittsburgh for another year.