Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Chris Hubbard signed a long-term contract with the Cleveland Browns to take over the right tackle position, at a salary that actually pays him like a starter. The money, and the opportunity to play, drove him to make the decision to leave, but he said that Todd Haley being the offensive coordinator also helped.
He also said that he has been thinking about this season opener against his former team pretty much since the beginning of this process. “I think about that a lot”, he said. “It’s going to be physical. AFC North football, it’s going to be physical. That’s all you need to know”.
Hubbard was originally signed by the Steelers as a college free agent in 2013, spending his rookie season on the practice squad before making the team a year later. He slowly improved and moved up in the ranks before inheriting the backup tackle position in 2016 after Ryan Harris was injured. He started the bulk of the 2017 season at right tackle due to injuries and suspension.
Telling reporters that he has bulked up to add another 10 pounds to his frame this season, he expects to be a greater asset in the run game than he was previously, though he still cited his work in pass protection as his strength.
Hubbard talked about the arc of his career and how important his time in Pittsburgh was to him. “To be honest, I think the way the career has set out for me, it couldn’t be a better way. I’ve learned, I’ve watched guys and I took in so much knowledge to where I’m really satisfied the way my career has set up”, he said. “It has helped me out a lot, has taught me a lot and to this day has got me in the right place and the right direction”.
Now he gets to face the same players that he went up against in practice over the past five years. On Sunday, he will be contending primarily with second-year outside linebacker T.J. Watt and fifth-year defensive end Stephon Tuitt. He said that Watt reminds him of his older brother, J.J. Watt, in that they use the same pass-rushing moves.
He also said that he has advised his fellow offensive linemen “everything I know” about the Steelers. “I’m giving them all the inside” information. Of course, that’s what players do when they change teams. And it’s not like they didn’t already have Haley.
Sunday will be the first game of Hubbard’s career as a full-time starting player, as well as the first as a multi-millionaire, and he does not take for granted how much his life has changed for the better over the course of the past year. It’s a great success story, though hopefully he doesn’t have much success against the Steelers.