The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on 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: How will Chris Hubbard do starting in place of Marcus Gilbert on Sunday?
The Steelers are going to be without at least two starters on Sunday, while we await word on the third, but the team has been able to handle each of the injuries reasonably well up to this point. When T.J. Watt suffered a groin injury, Anthony Chickillo stepped up. Tyson Alualu has been plug-and-play sound filling in for Stephon Tuitt, who may return this game.
As for Gilbert, who unfortunately has a history of minor injuries, his replacement actually already has a fair amount of experience stepping in for him, that being fourth-year lineman Chris Hubbard, who started three games at right tackle a season ago.
On Sunday, the former undrafted free agent was called upon to play both left and right tackle after he was initially being used at the start of the game as a tackle-eligible tight end. While he overall did reasonably well, he had some ugly snaps, but that came against Everson Griffen, and coming off the bench.
Hubbard has not had the most extensive history of playing well, but I thought that he did a more than solid job last season when he had to fill in for a three-game stint. I also thought that he handled himself well during the preseason as well, during which he spent almost all of his time at either tackle position.
Last year, however, is last year, and the preseason is the preseason, which is played at a different speed when a win or a loss doesn’t ultimately matter. The offensive line overall this season hasn’t come out all guns blazing, either, a factor to consider in this equation.
Gilbert and David DeCastro have developed quite a chemistry working together over the years. Will Hubbard be able to replicate that aspect, particularly when it comes to stunt pickups? Let’s hope so.