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Steelers notebook: Chris Hubbard likely to start in place of Marcus Gilbert again

Chris Adamski
| Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, 7:03 p.m.
Steelers offensive tackle Chris Hubbard plays against the Vikings Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers offensive tackle Chris Hubbard plays against the Vikings Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Steelers offensive tackle Chris Hubbard plays against the Vikings Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers offensive tackle Chris Hubbard plays against the Vikings Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017 at Heinz Field.

It's becoming increasingly likely Chris Hubbard will make his third consecutive start for the Steelers at right tackle.

Marcus Gilbert did not practice for the second consecutive day Friday and is doubtful to play in Sunday's home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Gilbert is the only player listed on the Steelers' official injury report.

A start by Hubbard would be the sixth of his career — all over a span of the past 364 days — at right tackle. He also has two starts as an extra lineman/tight end.

“Hubbard is a guy who would be a starter on many teams in the league,” right guard David DeCastro said. “And to have guys like him and (B.J.) Finney as backups, it's huge to have depth. For an offensive line, it's rare to find that in the league, and obviously, Hubbard is showing that.”

For an offensive line that repeatedly has lauded its stability over the past few years, Hubbard has played enough recently that communication and chemistry are becoming seamless.

“I have worked with Hubbard quite a bit now, which is great to have that continuity a little bit,” said DeCastro, who has been lining up next to Hubbard in games. “Obviously, you wanna get ‘Gil' back, but it's nice to have (Hubbard) when he's not.”

Otherwise healthy

All other players who missed at least part of the practice week were not included on the injury report. That group includes safety Mike Mitchell, who missed his first game with the Steelers last week because of a hamstring injury, as well as linebackers Bud Dupree (shoulder), Ryan Shazier (shoulder) and James Harrison (illness), safety Sean Davis (ankle) and tight end Jesse James (shoulder).

Jaguars injury report

The only Jacksonville player who is assured of not playing is backup linebacker Lerentee McCray. No. 2 receiver Marqise Lee (ribs) and starting center Brandon Linder (illness) are questionable, along with newly acquired receiver Jaelen Strong (hamstring) and reserve safety Jarrod Wilson (shoulder).

Brown returning punts

Antonio Brown was back returning punts last week.

Apparently, it wasn't a one-game occurrence.

Asked if he was going to continue to be the Steelers punt returner, Brown said, “Yeah, I'll be returning punts.”

Brown has averaged 9.7 yards per return and has four touchdowns during his career. He has held the full-time gig for at least a significant part of every NFL season, despite repeated attempts by the Steelers to shield their All-Pro receiver from such duties.

That includes this season, when Eli Rogers was given the job for the first three games until he muffed a punt that led to a touchdown during the Week 3 loss at Chicago. Rogers was deactivated last week in lieu of Justin Hunter.

Brown averaged 7.5 yards on two returns against Baltimore last week, making a fair catch on another kick.

Green appearance

Former Steelers tight end Ladarius Green was a guest at practice and chatted with a handful of his ex-teammates in the locker room.

Green was released in May, just 14 months into a four-year, $20 million contract he signed in the wake of Heath Miller's retirement. Green, who remains a free agent, played just six games for the Steelers because of recovery from ankle surgery and a concussion.

There was no indication Green's visit was anything more than as a guest and not because the Steelers were planning on signing him.

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

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