K-State lessons influence Steelers rookie B.J. Finney’s drive for improvement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center B.J. Finney will not be on the field when the Steelers play the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

Aug. 1, 2015; Latrobe, PA; Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center B.J. Finney (67) during training camp. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Aug. 1, 2015; Latrobe, PA; Pittsburgh Steelers rookie center B.J. Finney (67) during training camp. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Finney, who joined the Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State, won’t travel with Pittsburgh’s active 53-man roster while he improves his craft on the practice squad.

“He gives us a hard day’s work,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Finney in a conference call with Chiefs beat writers. “He’s in our program developing.”

And there is one area Finney admitted as his biggest challenge transitioning from college to the professional ranks.

“The speed, just being able to play as fast as I need to,” Finney said in a telephone interview. “I can do that half the time, but I’m not as consistent as I want to.”

That the 6-4, 318-pound Finney willingly points out a weakness in his game along with an honest self-assessment hardly comes as a surprise given his roots.

Finney, a native of Andale, Kan., continues to apply lessons learned from legendary coach Bill Snyder to his current situation with the Steelers.

“When you get to your locker and you sit down, and it’s like, man, there’s a mile-long list of things I know in my mind that I have to get better at without Coach saying anything to me,” Finney said. “I know and that comes from Coach Snyder and his program.”

Finney’s football upbringing was quickly reinforced over the summer months when he met former K-State running back Rock Cartwright.

Cartwright, who spent 10 seasons in the NFL, served as a coaching intern with the Steelers during training camp and found Finney hard to miss.

“I actually saw him with K-State gear on,” Cartwright said in a telephone interview. “I think he had on a pair of shorts or something, and I asked, ‘You went to Kansas State?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah.’ I was like, ‘OK, cool. I went there.’”

With a common bond established, the two men spent time talking about their alma mater and the K-State football program.

Cartwright also used the opportunity to offer Finney advice on how to make it at the next level based on personal and professional experiences.

“I pretty much told him it’s the same mentality that he had there that you have to have here as far as practice habits and things like that,” Cartwright said. “I give Coach Snyder credit, hands down, showing me how to become a better player and that’s in practice.

“I’ll never forget he said to me one time, I had a decent practice, and he said, ‘Now, that’s how you practice.’ I took that to heart and I always had that in the back of my mind if you practice the way you play, you’ll play much better, you’ll be prepared for the game on Sunday.”

Finney, who offers the Steelers versatility at center and guard, knows about hard work given his path to K-State as a walk-on, and then landing with Pittsburgh after going undrafted.

He has dealt with professional adversity, from suffering an ankle injury in the final preseason game to being waived on Sept. 5 as part of the Steelers’ final roster cuts before being brought back on Sept. 29.

Finney’s history shows he won’t shy from putting in the necessary hours to prove himself, and he will always use what he learned in Manhattan, Kan., as he looks to stick with the Steelers.

“The main thing right now at this point of my career from Coach Snyder is always keep improving, always find a way to improve,” Finney said. “It’s always finding a way to improve, know what you need to do to improve. Put a sheet down, write it out and write stuff to achieve and improve on that goal that you set for yourself.”


Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.