It was not the plan going in, but the Pittsburgh Steelers were provided with the opportunity of getting veteran reserve offensive lineman Chris Hubbard some quality reps at left tackle during their preseason opener against the Giants, with Alejandro Villanueva being held out of the game for a possible concussion suffered earlier in the week.
A once much-maligned player, Hubbard did gain some fans last season when he got the opportunity to make three starts at right tackle in place of Marcus Gilbert during the regular season, and he held his own. This year, he figures to serve as the Steelers’ swing tackle again, only now it will be by selection and not because he is the last man standing.
Early in the game, the Steelers ran an end-around for wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, and did so toward Hubbard’s side of the field. After working to seal the defensive tackle inside, he advanced to the second level to chip a linebacker and help the play pick up nine yards.
Late in the first quarter, he again showed some of the mobility that the Steelers like out of him on a run up the middle in which he did a nice job of working to the second level. He got a clean pop on the linebacker and turned him initially, even if the play was only moderately successful, picking up three yards.
On the following play, the first of the second quarter, he worked a double team block with Ramon Foster on the defensive tackle on a run that ultimately went through his gap. The play took too long to develop and only produced three yards, however.
Again, one play later, he showed up in pass protection, demonstrating active feet and hands as he worked the rusher up the arc. The pass was picked off and he was able to chase down the interceptor and make the tackle.
A bit later, on the following possession, the rusher did manage to beat him initially by swatting his outside arm and bending the edge. But Hubbard recovered well and pushed him to the ground to allow a completion of 44 yards on a vertical throw.
You’re not about to mistake him for Tyron Smith, but the fourth-year veteran handled himself pretty well at left tackle against the Giants, which has to be the best he has looked there. With Jerald Hawkins struggling this camp, Hubbard’s continued development is crucial.