Temptation Meets Risk In Using B.J. Finney To Supplement Blocking At TE

The four-game suspension of right tackle Marcus Gilbert comes at an inopportune time for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I don’t mean simply for the fact that the team is heading down the stretch run of a regular season that could see them lock up homefield advantage throughout the playoffs as long as they handle their own business.

The fourth of those games will be the pivotal one, a contest against the New England Patriots, who like the Steelers are also 8-2 this year through their first 10 games. As we get closer and closer toward the end of the regular season, it is becoming increasingly likely that the winner of that game will have the opportunity to host the AFC Championship game.

But on a more immediate, schematic level, Gilbert’s absence simply complicates the Steelers’ options when it comes to blocking. If the team ends up being without both tight end Vance McDonald and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, then they will be without arguably their two most talented blockers among the skill positions.

Ordinarily, the solution to this particular problem will be to instead use the tackle-eligible, but Chris Hubbard is their primary tackle-eligible, and he will be playing…well, tackle. So if they use a tackle eligible, it will have to, most likely, be B.J. Finney.

But in that event, you expose your top two backup linemen to potential injury at the same time, which is a risky endeavor. While they have done this before—Finney played 24 snaps at tight end while Hubbard started against the Ravens and Jaguars earlier this year—the knowledge that they will have to get through a four-game stretch makes it a bit more onerous.

Still, they may have little choice if the worst-case scenario injury report comes out, and if they find themselves struggling the block up the plays that are called. In their last game, they ran the ball relatively infrequently and stuck to three-receiver sets, but that can’t be a four-game plan, either.

The Steelers gained an average of exactly four yards per play while Finney has been on the field as a tackle-eligible tight end, but that also includes a couple of explosive runs. Most often, he was paired up with McDonald when they were in two-tight end sets, but they also ran several three-tight end sets including Jesse James.

Hopefully the injury report brings some good news and we see some of the injured players on offense make headway toward playing, but if not, don’t be surprised if they turn to Finney at some point. Darrius Heyward-Bey could also be called upon, as I mentioned in an earlier article.

The Steelers overall have not been using the tackle-eligible as much as they did down the stretch last year, but, of course, their primary tackle-eligible has spent most of his time in the starting lineup, making it difficult to do so. Will it now be a necessity?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • tk1965

    I know that you’re just a blogger and not a writer but there are so many mistakes in this article it makes it hard to read. Care enough about your readers and a quality product to at least proof read once before you post. If you read it out loud before you post it that should help. If I have to spend time figuring out what you meant to say I’m going to go elsewhere for my team news.

  • Rick McClelland

    Wow. What is with all the criticism of Matt’s writing today?
    I for one found it insightful as I’ve been one of those lone fans out there rooting for B.J. Finney all season.
    In fact, I say it almost every week. Get Finney the ball.
    Lighten up. It’s all really not that important in the grand scheme of life.

  • Mateo K

    You should definitely go somewhere else for your team news… try ESPN. Maybe there you’ll get your perfect grammar, along with garbage insight on the team. Enjoy.

  • SfSteeler

    i generally like to slay the english language because, a) its so easy and, b) its a test to see how upity some people can b over a litle human eror/play…

    god save the queer!

  • AndyR34


  • AndyR34

    Maybe Feiler?

  • Lambert58

    I’m sorry you’re so unhappy. Go take it somewhere else.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Three minor typographical errors for an article written after 4 beers is honestly pretty good.

  • Matthew Marczi

    It’s a possibility, and he’s said earlier this year that he has practiced it if it becomes necessary.

  • John Pennington

    If Vance is going to be out a long time is McGee ready or not.

  • Rocksolid20

    Good question , Vance seems to be out about every other game .

  • will

    Steelers should not live in their fears.

  • will

    And Gilbert is a disappointment.