The Pittsburgh Steelers may have caught a break this week when Cleveland Browns right guard Wyatt Teller suffered a calf strain in the first quarter of his team’s 32-23 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has since described the injury as “week to week, less so day to day,” meaning former Steelers right tackle Chris Hubbard is likely to take Teller’s place in the starting lineup when he goes against his old team on Sunday at Heinz Field.
Chris Hubbard’s Career with the Browns, Steelers
Chris Hubbard came into the NFL when he was signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Alabama-Birmingham in April 2013. During his five years in Pittsburgh he worked his way up from the practice squad to the starting right tackle job, which he held with the Steelers in 2017. After that season, he left in free agency, signing a five-year, $37.5 million contract with the Browns.
Hubbard started every game—and played every snap—for the Browns during his first season in Cleveland, but has now moved into a backup role. In fact, he expected to serve as the team’s swing tackle after he agreed to re-do his contract in the offseason to stay in Cleveland.
According to Cleveland.com, “Hubbard was set to make base salaries of $6.15 million in 2020, $6.65 million in 2021 and $7.15 in 2022. Instead, he’s now under contract for two years with a base salary of $2.5 million in 2020, including a $1 million signing bonus, and $1 million guaranteed in 2020.”
How Good is Cleveland’s Offensive Line?
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns have developed one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. The Browns have three offensive linemen on Pro Football Focus’ new list of the 50 Best Linemen in the NFL (offense and defense combined). They are: guard Joel Bitonio (No. 30), tackle Jack Conklin (No. 32) and center JC Tretter (No. 50).
(By way of comparison, Pittsburgh has one O-lineman on PFF’s list, right guard David DeCastro, with 4 Steelers players on the list in total.)
Never mind the now-injured Teller, who “has been among the highest-ranked players in the league, according to Pro Football Focus‘ grades,” according to the above-referenced article for clevelandbrowns.com.
Hence the reason why it could be a break to see Hubbard instead of Teller at right guard.
On Monday Hubbard told Browns beat writer Mary Kay Cabot that “he had never played guard in a regular season game before Sunday.”
Moreover, he didn’t get much prep time at the position during practice last week, getting just one repetition.
The Last Time the Steelers Started 4-0
On Sunday, Pittsburgh (4-0) will play its first AFC North game of the season when it hosts the Browns (4-1) at 1 p.m. ET. The last time the Steelers started 4-0 was 1979, a season that ended with a victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV. That year Pittsburgh lost its fifth game of the season to the Philadelphia Eagles, 17-14.
In 1978 the Steelers also started 4-0. That team won its first seven games of the season en route to a win against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII.
Former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher has picked this year’s team to go to Super Bowl LV.
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