ShareThis Page
Starting is nothing new for Steelers right tackle Chris Hubbard |

Starting is nothing new for Steelers right tackle Chris Hubbard

Chris Adamski
| Wednesday, November 22, 2017 5:15 p.m
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers offensive lineman Chris Hubbard plays against the Jaguars Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers offensive lineman Chris Hubbard plays against the Jaguars on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, at Heinz Field.

The Steelers are turning to a backup who has been their starter this season more than the starter has.

In the wake of Marcus Gilbert’s four-game suspension, Chris Hubbard takes over as the Steelers right tackle for the next month.

Then again, it was only two weeks ago Gilbert took over for Hubbard at that same spot. Hubbard, in fact, has played right tackle in seven of the Steelers’ 10 games this season, starting five.

For six of the 10 games this season, Hubbard has been the Steelers’ most-used right tackle.

Backup? Not now. Not this season.

“He’s been a good player. He’s been in the league five years. He’s been around,” right guard David DeCastro said. “It’s not like a normal young guy. He’s got a lot of experience.”

An undrafted free agent in 2013, Hubbard has been in the league so long, his alma mater (UAB) killed its football program (in 2014) — and brought it back (this season).

He has been in the league long enough that he’s eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season, too.

For Hubbard, that makes this opportunity all the more fortuitous. He will be able to market himself to other teams based off game tape from no fewer than 11 games this season.

That could make the suspension of — and earlier hamstring injury to — Gilbert potentially worth millions to Hubbard.

“I haven’t even been focused on that,” Hubbard said before practice Wednesday, four days prior to the Steelers hosting the Green Bay Packers. “I’m focused on this year right now, and I am trying to get to the Super Bowl with this team and that’s the main goal.”

Dating to last season, Hubbard has been the Steelers’ starter at right tackle in eight of their past 19 regular-season games.

In appraising his performance so far this season, Hubbard said, “I feel pretty good.”

“I look at the game tape, and I go back and re-evaluate myself,” he said. “I’m always hard on myself (but) then (offensive line coach Mike Munchak) will say, ‘You did a good job here,’ and it makes me feel better.”

If accounting for the games in which either Gilbert or Hubbard played more than 90 percent of the Steelers’ offensive snaps at right tackle as full games (during the Week 6 win at Kansas City, Gilbert started and played 34 percent of the snaps; Hubbard the rest), the offensive production under either tackle are similar.

The Steelers are averaging 366.2 yards of offense during the 4 13 games Gilbert has been playing; 358.8 yards in the 5 23 games Hubbard has. Yards per carry increases and sack rate decreases under Hubbard.

Numbers such as that — in addition to the continuity and familiarity of having Hubbard around in the locker room for so long — are part of the reason why his teammates have expressed so much confidence in him.

“(Votes of confidence from teammates) tells me that they have my back — and I got their back,” Hubbard said. “…It means a lot to me.”

Still, teammates long have remarked Gilbert is one of — if not the — best right tackles in the NFL. They lobbied hard for him to make the Pro Bowl last season.

Pro Football Focus rates Gilbert as the 11th-best tackle in the NFL this season (regardless of left or right), giving him an “above-average” grade of 80.2; the site ranks Hubbard No. 49 among tackles at 64.1 (“below average”).

The PFF breakdowns via pass-block and run block similarly are skewed heavily toward Gilbert, who is 10th in the NFL in pass blocking with Hubbard 43rd, and Hubbard is 55th in run blocking and Gilbert 29th.

That’s done little to temper Steelers expectations that Hubbard is more than capable of holding serve over the next four games until Gilbert returns for the Christmas Day game in Houston.

“It’s a great opportunity to help this team continue to do what we need to do on this streak,” Hubbard said. “It’s going to be fun.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review steelers reporter. You can contact Chris via Twitter .

Categories: Steelers
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.