I’m not sure quite how respected he is just yet, but compared to even a year ago, there are certainly a lot more people in Chris Hubbard’s corner these days. The fourth-year offensive lineman has essentially become the Pittsburgh Steelers’ sixth offensive lineman, something of a Trai Essex 2.0, capable of playing every position.
Not just capable of it, of course, but also having actually done it. Just during the preseason, he logged 11 snaps at center with another 46 coming at left tackle, wrapping things up with 16 more snaps at right tackle.
Just this Sunday, he logged snaps at both left and right tackle and as a tackle-eligible, which became a key role for him last season, where he logged 122 snaps during the regular season. He also logged 208 snaps at right tackle over four games due to Marcus Gilbert’s injury, and even saw four snaps at center.
In previous preseasons, the Steelers have run Hubbard extensively at all three interior offensive line positions as well, though with B.J. Finney around as the top interior reserve, he has largely focused his attention to playing on the perimeter. Not that his teammates don’t see and appreciate his versatility across many positions.
In fact, Alejandro Villanueva called him “the most complete offensive lineman in the NFL”, according to Joe Rutter. “The most impressive thing about him is he can carry through a lot of skill through each position. He’s a very knowledgeable player. He sees every block, he’s very fundamental, and that’s what makes him a plug-and-play sort of player”.
The Steelers plugged him into the starting lineup for three games last year, and they may have to do so again on Sunday should a hamstring injury that Gilbert is currently dealing with not perk up by the end of the week. Hubbard conceded that he is preparing this week as though he is going to start, having worked with the first-team line.
He told Rutter that his film study is more extensive than most linemen’s because of the number of positions that he prepares himself for. “I try to prepare myself for everything”, he said.
“I scout the whole line. I could be playing tight end, I might have to play guard or tackle, or maybe even center, so I try to watch as much of the defensive line as possible”.
Hubbard has been around for a long time now. Originally signed as an undrafted free agent in 2013, he spent his rookie season on the practice squad before making the 53-man roster in 2014, where he saw just a couple of snaps at the end of a blowout victory.
He got a couple dozen snaps as a tackle-eligible the following year, and had to fill in for a handful of snaps at left tackle during a game in which Villanueva briefly left, but his most extensive playing time by far occurred last year. On Sunday, he saw 21 snaps at left tackle, 15 at right, and five more at tight end. I’ll have a look at his showing tomorrow during a film session.