Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Chris Hubbard has started the past two games at right tackle in place of the injured Marcus Gilbert, after doing so last season for three games. At the moment, even though Gilbert did not practice yesterday, it appears that it was a planned day of rest, and that he is on track to return to the lineup on Sunday.
But should he be unable to return yet, or has a setback, it will fall back onto Hubbard to take his place, so I think it would be worth reviewing his performance from Sunday against the Ravens, after he had a bit of a rough start at times working against Akiem Hicks in Chicago.
Hubbard had a cleaner game as a blocker in the running game than in pass protection, though I also feel that they were some of the more notable plays for him in the game, so that is what I will focus most of my attention on below.
One of the qualities that the team has talked about in favoring him over the years is that he has mobility for a lineman, and he showed that on an early run in the first quarter, helping to get nine yards for Le’Veon Bell off right tackle. After blocking down on the defensive tackle, he was able to get off to the second level and seal the linebacker.
Another play in which he displayed the ability to find work out in space came a few minutes later on a screen pass to Jesse James that went for 15 yards. Maurkice Pouncey slid down the line to pick up the defender that Hubbard chipped before the right tackle moved upfield to take down the defensive back pursuing James.
Yet again, in space, early in the second quarter, Hubbard found a body and sealed off the linebacker at the second level after kicking the edge defender inside for David DeCastro to pick up. This play only went for four yards on first and 18, but that does nothing to disparage his performance on the play.
Midway through the third quarter, the Steelers tried some outside zone running, but for minimal effect, this coming on third and long. With James unable to pick up the first defender, Hubbard was stuck trying to contend with two, and Bell just tried to get what he could, at least setting up for a field goal.
What Hubbard at least brings to the table is this mobility, this preserves a lot of the components that the Steelers like to carry out. Pulling in particular has been an important feature of their run-blocking early on, though Hubbard did not do any of that on Sunday, but he did move to the second level often.