With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Chris Hubbard.
I don’t think it would be hard to imagine Chris Hubbard as perhaps one of the less popular players on the roster among fans. Though he has spent the past three seasons on the 53-man roster (2014 and 2015) or the practice squad (2013), the former undrafted free agent is far from the fan favorite that somebody like B.J. Finney has proven to be.
But it’s Finney, and not Hubbard, as the one looking up to his competition, as Hubbard is the one with the roster spot, and Finney the one looking to take that spot for himself. Either way, it is essential that the Steelers unveil some quality depth along the interior offensive line, and soon, considering Cody Wallace is already 31.
Hubbard and Finney appear to be the next two players in the running for the ninth roster spot along the offensive line. Hubbard has been on the roster for the past two years, and thus has a bit of an advantage, but he is far from a proven commodity.
In particular, and of particular concern, is the fact that he seemed to regress in a significant way in his third preseason last year, during which the team seemed to be feeding him snaps at the center position, which is not his natural position.
In spite of his poor play in the exhibition segment of the year, and partly due to injuries, Hubbard made the roster and spent most of the year active, ultimately becoming the top backup at all position due to further injuries.
Fortunately for the Steelers, however, the line ultimately stayed healthy from that point forward and was only asked to play a handful of snaps at left tackle, where he actually played fine. He also logged a couple dozen snaps as a tackle-eligible tight end, where he found relative but inconsistent success.
But Hubbard really needs to show the Steelers this year during the preseason that he is a player that they can put in the starting lineup if need by and trust that he can do an adequate job of holding himself together. I would imagine, and hope, that the coaching staff is not necessarily quite there just yet with him.
Besides, he will have to earn his roster spot with Finney breathing down his neck. After spending the year on the practice squad, and ultimately being paid the equivalent of a rostered salary, it figures that the team views him as a player with a legitimate shot at the roster.