For the second game in as many weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers were forced to call upon third-year offensive lineman Chris Hubbard to fill in at right tackle in order to replace the injured Marcus Gilbert, who suffered a foot injury against the Chiefs and has been sidelined since.
At the moment, it doesn’t appear as though Gilbert will be returning before the bye week, as he was expected to try to practice yesterday, but did not, which means that Hubbard will be making his third start in a row. My initial impressions were that he struggled, but as I dug into the tape a bit more for this article, I found that he was actually pretty solid once again after a couple of early hiccups.
One of those early blemishes came early in the game, on the third play, as he lined up across from Ndamukong Suh. Hubbard and the right guard worked a double team, but when Bell looked to bounce the run to the backside behind the right tackle, the defensive tackle was able to work off the block and make the tackle after a short gain. Obviously, this is not a disastrous error, given that the lineman can’t see what is going on in the backfield, however.
A couple of plays later, with the Steelers facing a third and six, Hubbard got a bad start off the snap and the defensive end blew by him, forcing the lineman to hold just to prevent the sack. The play resulted in an incomplete pass anyway, so the penalty was declined.
He came back with a nice rebound on his next rep, however, doing a much better job on Cameron Wake, getting his kick slide out early and extending his arms while pivoting well to mirror the rush attempt, through a spin attempt, to keep the pocket clean for an 11-yard gain.
Later on the drive, with the offense facing a third and one, the Steelers put up an 11 look, with the tight end to the right side. Once again, Hubbard and the right worked a double team on Suh, but this time, the right tackle made sure to get the defensive tackle turned and sealed, and as a result, Bell found a seam for a 13-yard run.
Late in the first half, with the backup quarterback in, the Steelers had another third-and-one situation, but this time they chose to pass. The play was a bust, but Hubbard did his part, blocking down on Wake before picking up Suh sweeping around the edge on a stunt, but the guard couldn’t handle the switch-off and the Dolphins got pressure that forced a bad throw.
Overall, I’m left with nothing to say but that Hubbard’s play over the course of the past two weeks has been a pleasant surprise, exceeding expectations. This is certainly the best that he has ever played in his professional career, including the preseason for four years.