Player: Chris Hubbard
Experience: 2 Years
Free Agent Status: Exclusive Rights
2014 Salary Cap Hit: $420,000
2014 Season Breakdown: Chris Hubbard was one of several undrafted free agent linemen that the Steelers brought in to camp during the 2013 offseason, looking to fill out the last one or two roster spots after using premium draft picks to assemble their starting offensive line.
While he played fairly well during the preseason, he ultimately was asked to spend his rookie season on the practice squad, where he grew and developed. He performed well throughout the 2014 offseason and into the preseason, well enough, in fact, that he made the 53-man roster outright on his second try, and remained there for the duration of the season.
Hubbard even got an opportunity to play a small handful of snaps early in the season, in part due to injury, and in part due to the blowout nature of the scoreboard.
In week three against the Panthers, the Steelers blew open the game in the second half, taking a three-possession lead as they looked to wind down the clock with some power football. They took out the quarterback, as well as center Maurkice Pouncey, who was coming off an ACL tear.
Left guard Ramon Foster was out of this game, with reserve interior lineman Cody Wallace starting in his place. Wallace moved to center after Pouncey left the game, and Hubbard filled in for the last series at left guard.
Hubbard played exactly seven snaps, all seven of them runs, with LeGarrette Blount churning out the majority of his yards to close out the game, totaling over 100 for the game as the Steelers capped off one of their best rushing performances in recent years.
Of course, Hubbard only deserves just a small sliver of the credit for this, but the Steelers, including offensive line coach Mike Munchak, do believe in Hubbard as a player and future contributor in the trenches, if not as a future starter, then at least as a reliable reserve.
With Foster the elder statesman of the starting lineup and entering the final year of his contract, is it conceivable that Hubbard could be groomed into taking over the left guard position by 2016, passing the position on from one former undrafted free agent to the next? That is, of course, just idle speculation, but the Steelers are indeed fond of ‘Mother’ Hubbard.
Free Agency Outlook: As with Terence Garvin, the Steelers have acted quickly with Hubbard as an exclusive rights free agent, tendering him a qualifying offer in order to retain his rights and services for the 2015 season.
While the Steelers are returning their full slate of starting offensive linemen, as well as their two primary game day reserves, it will be interesting to see if Hubbard takes a step forward and could compete with Wallace for playing time should injuries occur. It was once talked about that they would stretch him out to center, which could be something that takes place in 2015, now that he seems to have found a home.