By Matthew Marczi
It has been a theme for many years that, aside from the occasional special teams contributions, rookies on the Pittsburgh Steelers, including even first-round draft picks, rarely contribute during their first season. That has been especially true over the years on defense, though less so on offense.
That pattern changed somewhat in 2013 due to a variety of circumstances, both foreseen and unforeseen, as many rookies—even undrafted players—got a good chunk of playing time on both sides of the ball. Therefore, there’s more to go on than usual when speaking about how their rookie seasons went.
Player: Chris Hubbard
Draft Status: Undrafted
The Steelers lost two starters from their offensive line—left tackle Max Starks and left guard Willie Colon—during the 2013 offseason, yet they neglected to address the offensive line during the draft (although they did sign Guy Whimper late in the offseason).
Instead, they relied heavily on signing undrafted rookie free agents in order to flesh out their offseason offensive line depth chart, bringing in seemingly a dozen or such players, which even included the son of Mike Golic.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of them didn’t stick around. In fact, only one of them spent any time with the team, excluding Nik Embernate, who landed on injured reserve before even playing in the preseason.
That one player was guard Chris Hubbard, who spent the majority of the offseason lining up with the second-team offensive line, above the majority of his peers who were brought in from similar backgrounds and positions, and above more experienced players such as Joe Long and Justin Cheadle.
That was already a strong indication that the Steelers organization believed Hubbard might have some potential for the future. The big tell in that regard, however, is that the coaching staff slowly began teaching him the center position, increasing his position flexibility, and thus his value to the team.
The Steelers have done the same in the past for players they believed had future potential. They did the same for John Malecki, who made the final roster this past season before being released in favor of a more veteran reserve option at center. They also taught the position to Kelvin Beachum before it was foreseen that he would take over the left tackle spot a month into the season.
Nevertheless, Hubbard’s preseason performance was rather unremarkable, if memory serves. He certainly did not outperform his peers that made the final roster—namely the aforementioned Malecki, Beachum, and Wallace—though he did play often (logging 158) snaps, and, at times, even well. Even if, to the best of my knowledge, he didn’t end up taking any center snaps.
It was enough to outpace the rest of his peers, as he wound up spending the entire season on the practice squad. Naturally, there is something to be said for the fact that the Steelers found themselves hurting for interior offensive line depth late in the season and that they brought in a pair of outside players to shore that up, but it’s not an indictment of his future.
Hubbard may never wind up playing a snap for the Steelers. He may never turn out to do anything for the organization. But right now, three of the team’s top four reserves are free agents. Perhaps if there are injuries next season, the team will be more comfortable calling him up.
Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – LB Jarvis Jones
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – RB Le'Veon Bell
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – WR Markus Wheaton
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – S Shamarko Thomas
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – QB Landry Jones
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – CB Terry Hawthorne
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – WR Justin Brown
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – ILB Vince Williams
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – DE Nick Williams
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – ILB Terence Garvin – Undrafted
Steelers 2013 Draft Class Review – DE Brian Arnfelt – Undrafted