It’s far from an ideal situation. But when a team is potentially on their fourth-string offensive tackle, it rarely is ideal.
Mike Tomlin all but confirmed Marcus Gilbert will miss this week with his foot/ankle injury. Tomlin called him “highly questionable,” the equivalent of that friend you haven’t seen in three years saying “we should hang out soon.” It’s not going to happen and Gilbert isn’t playing.
He was a bit more optimistic on Ryan Harris, dealing with a hematoma in his leg, but still called him questionable. So if both players are out, it will leave Chris Hubbard to be the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ starting right tackle Sunday afternoon against the New York Jets. That’s what Tomlin said at today’s press conference.
“He is but again, we’ll lot those decisions be determined by practice availability and quality of participation. But he is the next tackle of note if something were to prevent those two from playing.”
That was as far as Tomlin would comment on the situation, the norm for him regarding a situation when injuries create uncertainty. But if both are down, there is no debate that Hubbard has to be the next man up by the sheer fact there really isn’t anyone else to choose from.
Hubbard’s calling card is his versatility but right tackle is the spot he’s played the least at this season, primarily manning the left tackle spot when asked to play outside during camp and the preseason. You can be sure he’ll get a lot of work on the right side this week, assuming Gilbert doesn’t practice at all and Harris misses at least some time but it’s a tall task for a guy who clearly is far from an ideal tackle candidate. Hubbard struggled mightily on the left side in the preseason.
He played some right tackle in college, starting the entire 2011 season at UAB at that spot.
Matt Feiler would likely have to be promoted off the practice squad as the backup right tackle for this week. He played tackle in college at Bloomsburg. He began camp this year at right guard but when injuries hit, moved out to right tackle.
Hubbard would still, in a sense, be the swing player. If we assume Ramon Foster will also miss, in addition to Gilbert, Harris, and Cody Wallace, Hubbard would fill-in at any spot should someone go down during the game. And then it would be up to Feiler to replace Hubbard at right tackle.
It also isn’t out of the question the Steelers could sign someone but that would be a quick turnaround for a player to get up to speed. If it happens, the player will have to be brought on by today.