Chris Hubbard feels love from Steelers after signing 'unreal' Browns deal

PITTSBURGH -- Ramon Foster is the purveyor of the Pittsburgh Steelers' money-bag motif, using photoshop to update a master image each time a key member of the team nabs a new contract.

Foster recently sent right tackle Chris Hubbard, who's fresh off a five-year, $36.5 million free-agent deal with the Cleveland Browns, a private bag photo that Hubbard won’t share publicly.

But the image is a reminder of how “bittersweet” Hubbard considers his departure from Pittsburgh, where he went from undrafted free agent in 2013 to a 10-game starter last season. Hubbard received congratulations from every member of the Steelers' offensive line and several coaches.

“They were genuinely happy for me," said Hubbard about the entire Steelers organization. "They mean the world to me as far as a brotherhood and what we’ve had. It’s been bittersweet, too. The Steelers gave me my first opportunity to join the team, just a world-class group. Just to give me the opp to come in.”

The Steelers knew Hubbard wanted to be an NFL starter and had played his way into that role, so they weren’t involved in his free agency. The team has committed long-term contracts to five linemen and couldn’t afford a sixth.

The Browns jumped in early in free agency with $9 million in guaranteed first-year money and $15.15 million guaranteed for injury. Hubbard was the first free-agent tackle off the board this spring.

Hubbard, 26, is still coming to grips with what he calls an “unreal” contract. He vividly remembers his wife, Tamara, working long hours at a pediatrician’s office to help pay for his draft-training meals. His in-laws housed him while he trained. The Steelers signed him as an undrafted free agent.

“I’m a kid from UAB, not heavily recruited, so it’s just been a blessing,” Hubbard said. “I remember being at my grandmother’s house as a kid and thinking I wanted to be an NFL player and have a big NFL contract one day. I never could have dreamed it would have happened.”

Hubbard is still on a group text with Steelers offensive linemen. There, the well-liked Hubbard is reminded that the work was worth it.

Now he’s preparing for 2018 with the Browns, and 2048 with Tamara and son Creed Eason, 1.

“We’re taken care of the rest of our lives,” Hubbard said. “Before, we sort of lived game check to game check… I can’t believe I’m in this position now, so I just want to be able to save it and help out my family the best way I can. I do like to save a lot, but being able to be in a tax bracket, I’m going to have to put money here and there.

"That’s the game changer, working with financial advisors to get a game plan mapping out my son’s life, taking care of my wife, doing whatever I can."