Steelers ‘Preparing to Bring Back’ Versatile O-Lineman: Report

BJ Finney Steelers

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images Quarterback Devlin Hodges of the Pittsburgh Steelers waits for the snap behind center B.J. Finney on December 29, 2019.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in need of both starters and depth on the offensive line. Former Steelers lineman B.J. Finney could be part of the solution, either as depth on the interior or as a stopgap replacement for now-retired center Maurkice Pouncey.

According to a report by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the “Steelers are preparing to bring back guard/center B.J. Finney,” which explains why “[he] is at the team’s South Side facility today.”

B.J. Finney Left the Steelers in Free Agency Last Year

Finney was released by the Bengals a week ago, having acquired him (plus a seventh-round pick) in a mid-season trade with the Seattle Seahawks in October of last year. It’s no surprise that Cincinnati jettisoned Finney, as the primary motivation for the trade was to rid themselves of veteran defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap and his 2020 and 2021 salaries.

However, it must give the Steelers pause to know that Finney was unable to earn playing time with the Seattle Seahawks, having signed a two-year, $8 million contract with them in free agency in March 2020. Nor did he see any offensive snaps with the offensive-line challenged Bengals, which only adds to the concern.

But if he’s willing to come back on a low-cost, low-commitment deal, the Steelers could use an insurance policy on the offensive line.

At the moment, recently re-signed exclusive rights free agent J.C. Hassenauer is the team’s only option at center and the Steelers need depth at offensive guard as well, as the team is thin behind veteran David DeCastro and second-year player Kevin Dotson, the latter of whom projects to start at left guard next year after impressing as a rookie.

The Steelers Did Not Receive a Compensatory Pick for Finney

At one point it seemed like the Steelers might enjoy the best of both worlds in terms of having the opportunity to bring back Finney and also receiving a compensatory pick for losing him in free agency—a projected sixth-rounder. But it didn’t work out that way, as the Steelers were awarded just one compensatory pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, a fourth-rounder given for losing defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to the Philadelphia Eagles.

As for Finney’s NFL history: He came into the league in 2015, signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State. After working his way up from the practice squad, he started 13 of 65 games between 2016 and 2019, seeing time at both center and offensive guard.

In 2019, he played 325 offensive snaps (33%), as well as 58 special teams snaps (13%). He also handled 299 offensive snaps in 2016, 235 snaps in 2017 and 164 in 2018.

Meanwhile, there are other former Steelers players available in free agency who could be candidates to return to Pittsburgh as backup/depth options. For example, ex-Steelers tight end Jesse James was released by the Detroit Lions on Thursday night just two years in to his four-year, $22.6 million contract. And on Wednesday, the New Orleans Saints released wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, a cost-cutting move necessitated by the Saints’ salary cap crunch.

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