Steelers Banking On Encore From Chris Hubbard

The Pittsburgh Steelers were quite fortunate to get two quality performances from two different reserve offensive linemen in consecutive weeks, B.J. Finney doing a very admirable filling in at left guard two weeks ago against the Chiefs and Chris Hubbard stepping in a week ago against the Jets and playing a very good game.

Unfortunately, the Steelers are still not out of the injury woods, and they are counting on lightning striking twice today with Hubbard making his second start in a row in place of the injured Marcus Gilbert. Hubbard became the team’s top reserve tackle following a hematoma suffered by Ryan Harris two weeks ago, coupled with a preseason injury to rookie fourth-round draft pick Jerald Hawkins.

It was no doubt an excellent showing from the third-year offensive lineman, who played well, particularly in pass protection, against a very stout New York defensive front line that more or less embarrassed the Bengals’ line, which can make its own case for having the best starting five in the division.

But if we’ve learned anything this season, it is to not put too much stock into any one particular game—after all, if we did that (and some of course did just that) after the Eagles game, we would have had a lot more free Sundays than we had planned on over the course of the next couple of months, but as it turned out, the Steelers dominated their next two opponents.

By that same token, we have seen enough of Hubbard’s bad tape over the course of the past four seasons to at least approach his second start with a healthy dose of realism, waiting to see the repeat performance before we take it for granted and anoint him as yet another one of the team’s quality reserve linemen.

Now, the Dolphins are not exactly blowing the doors off the league with their explosive pass rush, but they do have 10 sacks on the season, which is three more than Pittsburgh can claim to have, and they have their share of talent along the front line with defensive ends Cameron Wake and Mario Williams, not to mention Ndamukong Suh.

They also have a deep rotation along the defensive line, which will be a task of endurance that Hubbard will have to stand up to and overcome. He already played more last week than he did over the course of the rest of his professional career in total, and now he will have to put forth yet another effort against another line that lines to change things up—this one a 4-3 front, which they have had greater trouble defending.

This is not to say, of course, that the young man is not up to the task. He has already proven his mettle last week and demonstrated that he can compete with NFL-caliber talent. It would not be a surprise to see him rise to the challenge again. It is simply that it’s much harder to do it twice than it is to do it once.

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