This week’s Meat-Eater Matchup pits the Cincinnati Bengals Nose Tackle, Andrew Billings, coming to grips with Steelers Center, BJ Finney.
The Steelers roll into Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, and they do so without the services of their offensive line alpha male, Maurkice Pouncey.
Obviously, with Pouncey out of the lineup, the Steelers take a major hit to their offensive line. That’s the downside, and a downside it is.
But with every downside, there has to be an upside. And the upside is that the Steelers have Finney waiting in the wings. Although Finney isn’t the equal of Pouncey, (who is?), Finney is no stranger to the starting lineup.
After having started eight games at one of the guard slots, and two others at center, Finney is a more than capable Center or Guard. As a matter of fact, in my humble opinion, I think Finney could start on a number of other teams. Proving that he is starter capable, while he has been in the lineup, the Steelers are 9-1.
Finney is cowboy tough, thick of neck, back and has great ham-hock power. If there was such a thing, his “spirit animal” would be a Brahma bull. Equally adept in run blocking or pass protection, Finney uses a power packed lower body to gain an “under and up,” (Chuck Noll-ism) run blocking leverage.
Finney shotgun snaps consistently, uses his hands well in pass pro, and has good feet.
Job number one and more for the Center is to snap the ball, set the huddle and direct traffic along the line of scrimmage. Barking out blocking schemes, identifying fronts, and practically mind-melding with the quarterback are all parts of the job description.
Looming in front of Finney this week is massive Nose Tackle, 6-foot-1 and 330-pounds of powerful ham-hocks and beef steak strength, Andrew Billings.
In the ever diminishing world of the purist run-stopping nose-tackle, the massive Billings is a throwback to former Steelers great, Casey Hampton. Billings plays more than just nose-tackle, however. He will also lineup in sub-packages over the guards as well as over the center.
Billings is stout and stalwart against the run. He’s got more “wobble” than three Javon Hargraves. Perfectly built for close-quarter-combat in the trenches, you could show the 2018 and 2019 highlight films on his backside simultaneously. He is that massive!
Because of his great lower body strength and power, he’s able to play a “hunker-down-dawg run stuffer.” Billings plays with such a low pad level, which, added to his relatively short 6-foot-1 height, and 330-pounds of ballistic strength, make him extremely hard to move.
The expression, “dug in like a tick on a hound,” adequately gives representation to watching Billings take on a single block or even a double team. And, I would imagine, he’s even more painful to (re)move.
Watching video against the Bengals last opponent, the Oakland Raiders, Billings took on a double team on a straight running play. Keeping his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage, and moving laterally towards the ball carrier, Billings threw the Guard to the ground, and then the Center, Rodney Hudson, on his back. That my friends, is the work of a T-Rex wrecking machine.
When Billings plays over the guard, and the center blocks back (when a guard pulls from the line of scrimmage), Billings has shown the ability to play across the face of the center and nail the ball-carrier for little to no gain.
He is as subtle as a frying pan to the forehead.
Billings is a straight down the middle of the man pass rusher. Rarely getting to the outer third of a man as the best pass rushers do, Billings is not afraid to “chop wood” and attack front and center. Billings is a pocket pusher, plain and simple.
While the Steelers will certainly miss Pouncey, there’s no doubt they are fortunate in having a “starter in waiting,” in Finney.