It occurred to me yesterday with the release of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first ‘official’ depth chart of the season that something wasn’t quite right. Not with the depth chart—it is of course ridiculous and will change dramatically by the time the regular season begins—but with how the offensive line has been practicing—or where, rather.
With Maurkice Pouncey currently on the shelf with what is most likely a superveteran’s day off, though he may have a slightly dinged up knee as well, the Steelers are listing second-year interior lineman B.J. Finney as the first-team center. Which is great and all. It’s good for him to get the reps.
But shouldn’t they be giving Chris Hubbard a good dose of reps there as well? After all, he is presumably going to function as the team’s third-string center once the regular season starts, and not Kyle Friend. And, to be blunt, he could really use all the reps he can possibly get to work on his snapping.
Hubbard, a college tackle but who primarily converted to an interior lineman—specifically guard—in his first couple of seasons in the league, was used as a tackle last season due to necessity with Ryan Harris and Jerald Hawkins both unavailable.
But he did see time at center as well, I believe at the tail end of the Kansas City game in the regular season, which was a blowout. The Steelers took out some of their starters, including Pouncey, and Hubbard went in at center with Finney already starting at guard in place of Ramon Foster.
And I believe he snapped one of those football right into his keister for Landry Jones. Good thing that didn’t happen on a meaningful snap. The year before, during preseason action, a botched snap from Hubbard resulted in Bruce Gradkowski getting injured and shelved for the season.
If the Steelers truly intend for Hubbard to be a player that they can count on to line up at every single position, then I believe that he needs to be given more work at center during this time of year. With Alejandro Villanueva currently (possibly) in the concussion protocol, however, and Hawkins being an excused absence yesterday, the lines have been short.
I hope that as the offseason continues to advance, and the Steelers believe that Hubbard has gotten his fill of reps at tackle—since he may well serve as the team’s game-day swing tackle—that they will not forget about the fact that he needs to get his work on the inside as well.
According to Alex Kozora, the fourth-year offensive lineman has yet to take any reps there, nor at guard, during training camp, though he has been in on some drills with the tight ends. While not in the starting lineup due to injury, he spent most of his time on the field serving as a tackle-eligible.