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2017 South Side Questions: Could Steelers Use Two Tackle-Eligibles?

The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Could the Steelers ever consider utilizing offensive formations with seven linemen?

On the Steelers’ current roster, they now have two offensive linemen in which they have shown a level of comfort to trust them as an extra lineman. Chris Hubbard has been serving in this role for three years now, and he was featured there quite a bit in the second half of the 2016 season.

With Hubbard in the starting lineup on Sunday because of Marcus Gilbert’s injury, however, they got B.J. Finney prepared to assume that role, and he was in there for 15 snaps as the extra lineman. He was actually coached up already the week before, but Finny had to check into the game in Chicago early because of an injury to Ramon Foster.

But Foster already returned last week, and Gilbert so far looks to be on his way back after being a full participant in practice yesterday. If that is the case, then they will have both Hubbard and Finney available on the bench.

Would they ever use both of them at the same time as tackle-eligibles? After all, on Sunday, they did use a 23 personnel package, featuring three tight ends (including Finney as a tackle-eligible) and a fullback at the goal line.

If the mission is a clear ground-and-pound situation, and you have two extra linemen who have shown that they are capable of coming in and assuming that role, then I don’t see why not. Both Hubbard and Finney have shown some ability to pull, as well, so having them on the field would not take that aspect out of the play.

If they never opt to do this—I really don’t know how often this ever happens around the league—they can at least now have the option to choose between either Hubbard or Finney to come in as the tackle-eligible, which is something that they have shown that they like to do ever since Todd Haley was brought in.

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