Talk to any coach of any great football team and he’ll tell you about the star players. But he’ll also tell you about the guys who did their jobs at high levels yet just don’t get the attention or accolades that the stars get. Every team that goes on to greatness has these players and Sunday in the snow in Buffalo two Pittsburgh Steelers did their work in the shadows and made all the difference.
Fullback Roosevelt Nix and guard B.J. Finney were two of the guys I’m speaking of and both had incredibly big games in helping the Steelers win over the Bills.
Nix was a bright spot last year and there was no reason to think he wouldn’t have a big impact this year. The problem for Nix though was a persistently bad back that took most of his season from him. Now healthy, Nix was the snowplow clearing the way for Le’Veon Bell several times on Sunday. His ability to engage and lock on defenders is so important because blockers just don’t keep contact with guys the way they once did. He brings his hips through incredibly well for a guy who played defense in college.
But Nix’s impact wasn’t relegated to just being Bell’s plow horse. He had several big plays on special teams as well and that was more important than you think. With special teams guru Darrius Heyward-Bey still sidelined, the Steelers needed to see someone step up and Nix did that.
In Finney’s case, he got the start at left guard in place of Ramon Foster who had a chest injury. In his two starts this year, Finney has been part of the two biggest rushing games of the season for the Steelers and that could certainly be a mere coincidence but I don’t think it is and here’s why.
As much as I like Foster as both a person and a player, I believe Finney offers more athleticism. What that means is that he gives Todd Haley a bigger playbook because of his ability to pull from the left. The Steelers just don’t pull Foster as much and when David DeCastro is doing the bulk of the pulling from the right defenses pick up on that.
I am not suggesting Finney will replace Foster as the starter but it’s clear to me to see why the Steelers liked him so much.
When your team has guys like this who do the little things and who can do the ‘dirty work’ it makes life much easier for everyone else. Finney and NIx are guys I think we can plan on being in black and gold for several more years to come.