The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: What will Chris Hubbard’s role be during his fourth season, and can it include the swing role?
First of all, can you even believe that Chris Hubbard has already been in the Steelers organization for going on five years now, and that he has spent the past three years on the regular-season and postseason rosters?
There were many points in his career where it didn’t look too likely that he would be able to carve out such a future, but he really came into his own over the past year, and particularly when he was thrown into the fire, forced into starting duty at right tackle after both their starter and their primary backup went down.
Hubbard ended up starting three games at that spot and he delivered a performance that Mike Tomlin would characterize as “above the line”. In fact, Pro Football Focus even graded him out as one of the best reserve tackles in the league last season.
Which is interesting when you consider how much time he spent over the past four years actually taking his reps at guard, and then even at center. It seemed that most of his snaps during the 2015 preseason came at center. He did play there in garbage time during the regular season and did have a botched snap, but he is an emergency center only.
But with B.J. Finney stepping in as the top interior reserve after turning in quality starts of his own, and with the potential emergence of 2016 fourth-round tackle Jerald Hawkins, it would seem that Hubbard may find it difficult to even get a helmet on game day.
Still, it’s not set in stone that Hawkins is going to be given the swing tackle role. The Steelers do like Hubbard and they know that he did well last year. With Hawkins’ inexperience and Hubbard’s versatility—especially his ability to play the tackle-eligible position—could keep him on the game day roster over the second-year guy. This is a matter to be sorted out over the next month and a half.