Chris Hubbard plays fourth position of the season for Steelers on Sunday
He spent most of his first two seasons with the Steelers as a guard, has been known to dabble as a tight end and will go into the books as the Steelers' most-used starting right tackle in 2017. But Chris Hubbard added another notch to his position-flexibility repertoire Sunday.
With Maurkice Pouncey held out because of rest and minor injury, when backup center B.J. Finney went down because of a right thigh injury in the second quarter of Sunday's regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns, that left the Steelers short on center-capable options.
In stepped Hubbard.
“You've just got to be ready at all times,” the fourth-year pro said. “That's how this game goes.”
Hubbard said he'd never played center in his life until he got to the Steelers, and although on occasion he will get practice reps at the position now, that is still relatively rare. In a game setting, Hubbard said that before Sunday's game he'd gotten “maybe a handful” of snaps at center (this preseason).
But there he was playing more than half of a regular-season game thereat Heinz Field on Sunday.
“That's what ‘Hubb' does,” said the offensive line's most senior member, Ramon Foster. “He's our Swiss Army Knife.”
It wasn't all smooth sailing – 17 of the 29 snaps Hubbard made were shotguns, and at least three of those were off-target (two officially were recorded as fumbles, though quarterback Landry Jones kept possession of both).
A reporter after the game suggested to Jones that Hubbard's erratic snaps could have hindered the play of Jones (and the offense as a whole).
“Aw, you can't (knock) my man Hubb; he did a great job out there today,” Jones said of Hubbard, who is well-liked among teammates.
“A couple low snaps, but you have to remember: he's a tackle. You know what I mean?”
Hubbard started 10 games this season – nine in place of right tackle Marcus Gilbert (injury and suspension) and one as an extra tight end. An undrafted free agent in 2013 out of UAB, Hubbard did not appear in a regular-season game until 2014 and was on the field for seven games the following season. Last season, he played in all but one game and started two at right tackle and one at tight end.
According to the NFL's statistical service, Hubbard's 0.42 net yards over (league) average per play this season ranked just below Pro Bowl teammates Le'Veon Bell (0.48) and Antonio Brown (0.47) and just above Ben Roethlisberger (0.39) on the Steelers.
Hubbard will be a free agent after the season and figures to get some looks from teams that have needs at tackle.