When the Pittsburgh Steelers take the field on Sunday night, it’s sounding more and more as though they will be fielding their second unique starting offensive line, as left guard Ramon Foster appears unlikely to play against the Chiefs after sitting out the first two days of practice. The veteran left Sunday’s game late in the second quarter with chest and elbow injuries.
Normally that wouldn’t be too big of a deal. After all, the Steelers played all of last season without their All-Pro center, and most of the year without their starting left tackle. But a series of injuries has actually left the team possibly relying on their fourth-string guard at this point.
Third-year offensive lineman Chris Hubbard confirmed to Chris Adamski yesterday that he took first-team reps at left guard in practice, a circumstance that was made necessary by a number of injuries that both followed and preceded that suffered by Foster.
The Steelers’ veteran interior reserve, Cody Wallace, suffered what was reported as a hyperextended knee during the middle of the preseason, and he has already missed the first three games of the regular season as a result. I don’t believe he has gone through a full practice yet.
When Foster was forced to leave the game on Sunday, that meant that it was first-year lineman B.J. Finney who checked in, and as I detailed in a film study also posted today, he generally held his own when considering the circumstances, tasked with facing a fierce Eagles front four with their ears pinned back.
Finney would be making his first career start on Sunday were it not for a finger injury that he suffered in practice yesterday. It is still yet to be determined for sure whether or not he will be able to go on Sunday night, but if he does not—and I would guess that it is leaning in that direction—then it will be Hubbard, instead, making his first career start, after being passed by on the depth chart.
Due to injuries to Pouncey and others, Hubbard actually ended up basically as the Steelers’ sixth lineman, the backup at every position, barring perhaps center. But last week he found himself inactive in spite of the fact that the team was also without Wallace.
To go from inactive to starting in a week’s time gives an indication of the situation that the Steelers are in. At the moment, veteran Ryan Harris, who has never played guard, will be the only backup able to dress, and might presumably even be called upon to play guard if an injury occurred. Surely Hubbard would move over to center if the center went down, however.
I was looking forward to getting an opportunity to see Finney start a game, but that opportunity seemed to have slipped beyond his grasp with the finger injury, unless he manages to practice today. Still, this will be the biggest opportunity of Hubbard’s career as well, and at the position he is most comfortable playing, so it will be a good chance to evaluate him as well.
Update: It was reported following practice that Finney did return to the lineup, and is set to make his first start after all.