Updated: Jun 3, 2021
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Center/guard B.J. Finney signed back with the Steelers in March after having a tumultuous year in 2020, as the COVID-19 protocols had a big effect on him and things didn't work out in Seattle or Cincinnati.
"With COVID everything kind of got shut down, and the gyms around me got shut down. I was in communications with Seattle, they couldn't get me out there, get my physical," Finney said. "It was the one time I had finally seen some money and I wasn't going to risk losing all of that money and that opportunity by training and getting hurt away from the (team) facility. What goes along with that is you show up to camp overweight and out of shape and I got beat out, there's no way around it.
"When it comes to the mid-season trade, they needed a pass rusher and they needed to free some cap space and Cincinnati wanted offensive linemen so they traded me. Got there to Cincinnati, they got guys back that they liked, that they were comfortable with back from injury and they didn't need me. So they just kind of put me on the shelf and at the end of the season I had a hernia, so I had to have that repaired. The rest is history, they released me in March and here I am."
Steelers president Art Rooney II has talked about improving the run game on several occasions this offseason, as they finished dead last in rushing yards per game (84.4) last year. With Rooney making statements about the struggling running game, it wasn't surprising to see the Steelers select a feature running back like Najee Harris in the first round of this year's draft.
It will also be up to the offensive line to improve their 32nd ranked rushing offense, as they were horrendous in the run blocking department last year. However, the offensive line has gone through a lot of changes this offseason. Starting first with Adrian Klemm being promoted as the new offensive line coach, along with the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey and Matt Feiler and Alejandro Villanueva signing elsewhere in free agency.
The No. 1 priority for Klemm and new offensive coordinator Matt Canada is to fix the running game, and that message has been delivered throughout the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
"That's the talk, not just in our (offensive line) room but across the whole building and across the whole NFL," Finney said. "Everybody's like, 'What is the Steelers' run game gonna look like?'"
Guard Kevin Dotson and offensive tackle Zach Banner have raved about Klemm's aggressive coaching philosophy during OTAs. And that mindset has Finney's approval.
"Honestly, that’s not just the talk in our room or in our building, but across the NFL, ‘What’s the Steelers’ run game going to look like?’" Finney said. "We know we have to come out with an edge, we have to assert that run game and get back to what Pittsburgh is known for, that three yards at a time, that dust cloud, as Jerome Bettis would say. When the dust settles, that ball is moving forward. We’re hungry. We know we have something to prove, and we’ve got a chip on our shoulder, so we want to do it."