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Steelers help solidify offensive line by right to first refusal of RFA Chris Hubbard

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have a tremendous offensive line, but depth is an issue. They took a step towards rectifying that with tackle Chris Hubbard.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In 2016 the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line was dominant. They were tremendous in pass protection, and opened up holes in the running game. In other words, the team’s heavy investment into the hogs up front was finally starting to pay off.

With that said, after the starting five linemen, depth is a concern.

There are a handful of players who all help with depth along the line in their own way. B.J. Finney is the interior backup center and guard, and Chris Hubbard was the player who was the swing backup tackle on the team.

Hubbard wasn’t always slotted to to be the team’s backup tackle, and was on the bubble to even make the team in 2016. However, the injury to Ryan Harris, and Hubbard slotted at guard ultimately gave him a roster spot, and it is a good thing he was on the roster since he spelled Marcus Gilbert midway through the 2016 season.

Hubbard is a restricted free agent, but the Steelers took a step to ensuring he remains with the team in 2017 by reportedly placing the ‘Right of first refusal’ tender on him.

So, you might read this and wonder what this means. Well, let’s explain:

A restricted free agent (RFA) is one with three accrued seasons (six or more regular season games with a team) of service, who has received a "qualifying" offer (a salary level predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players, known as a "tender") from his current club. He can negotiate with any club through a certain date. If the restricted free agent accepts an offer sheet from a new club, his old club has "right of first refusal," a five-day period in which it may match the offer and retain him, or choose not to match the offer, in which case it may receive one or more draft picks for the upcoming draft from the player's new club. If an offer sheet is not executed, the player's rights revert to his old club the day after negotiations must end.

The Steelers seem prepared to keep Hubbard, and it will be interesting to see how the offensive line shakes out in 2017 with Ryan Harris back, as well as Jerald Hawkins, the team’s 4th round draft pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.