Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster missed time early in training camp, having taken bereavement leave to cope with the loss of his mother. As a consequence, his vacated left guard spot had to be filled by somebody during practices until he returned.
For the most part, that spot was occupied by second-year former undrafted free agent Chris Hubbard, who spent his rookie season on the Steelers’ practice squad all year, with aspirations of stepping up to the 53-man roster this season.
Being called upon to fill in for a starting lineman was obviously a positive sign of his progress, even as “Mother Hubbard” has already been consistently working with the second-team offensive line for the past year.
And when Foster needed replacing in the preseason opener against the New York Giants on Saturday, it was Hubbard who came into the game to finish up the last four snaps of the first-team offensive line’s time in the game, staying in the game when the second-team offensive line made its appearance.
The only problem is that Hubbard’s performance left a lot to be desired, both in run blocking and in pass protection. He hardly even looked like the same player that earned a position on the practice squad a year ago.
Over the past couple days of practice, Foster has been sitting out some or all of the offensive line drills while he deals with some swelling in his left knee. But this time, it wasn’t Hubbard coming in to take his place.
Instead, it was reserve center Cody Wallace filling in at left guard with the starters for the past two afternoons, and though the switch can’t be entirely attributed to Hubbard taking a step back in recent days, it is certainly a consideration.
The fact of the matter is that, as the likely projected game day reserve interior lineman, it is necessary for Wallace to get some work not just at center, but at both guard positions as well. A year ago, he did actually play briefly at both guard positions before he was forced into the starting lineup for the last four games of the season at center.
So far this offseason, he’s been mostly focused on playing at center. That is where all of his snaps in the preseason opener were taken. But not yesterday.
After working at left guard with the first-team offensive line, Wallace remained therewith the second-team unit while Hubbard came in at right guard and Wesley Johnson filled in at center.
Still, it’s hard to ignore the fact that this change occurred in such close proximity to the young lineman’s disappointing showing. No doubt working Wallace at guard with both units makes a lot of practical sense, given his role on the 53-man roster, but it might also be serving to send a message to the former practice squad player: the Steelers can always put Mother Hubbard back in the cupboard.