A Sign? Steelers Yet To Reissue Max Starks Jersey Number 78

Steelers Max Starks 78Before reading this post I suggest that all of you put on your Steelers Depot black and gold tin foil hats. Is everyone ready?

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 draft is now behind us and the undrafted free agents have been identified. On Monday we treated to the annual issuing of jersey numbers to all of the rookies and we were slapped with the reality that the No. 51 jersey that had been worn for the last decade by James Farrior will at least for now be worn by third round draft pick Sean Spence. These types of things need to happen when you have a roster consisting of 90 players as there is really no way around it. In addition the Steelers have only retired one number in the history of the franchise and that of course is the No. 70 worn by the great Ernie Stautner.

When you peruse the updated roster list you see quite a few double entries of numbers. One is always a player from on offense and the other is a player on defense when deciphering these duplicates. As I said above, when you have 90 players that must wear certain numbers to coincide with their positions, this kind of stuff is going to happen. All I can say is thank God, that the No. 86 has not been reissued just yet. It will likely happen at some point, but seeing the No. 51 already reissued as I mentioned above is enough reality for now.

Scanning on down the roster list you will notice that two numbers in the 70\’s, other than that of Stautner, have yet to be issued. Those two numbers of course are No. 75 and No. 78. No. 75 should be pretty obvious to you, and if not, please stop reading now. The yet to be issued No. 78 is the reason why you need to be wearing your tin foil hat to read this post. That number of course belonged to tackle Max Starks, who is currently an unrestricted free agent that is continuing to rehab from surgery to repair a torn ACL that he suffered in the Steelers loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Wild Card game.

I have been posting status reports on the recovery of Starks this entire offseason and he has stated more than once that it is his desire to play for the Steelers again in 2012. While the drafting of Mike Adams in the second round of the draft this past weekend might have hurt those chances, there seems to still be one spot on the 53 man roster that could be available when and if Jonathan Scott is sent packing. Starks still has a long way to go in his rehab and he will be pushing it close to be ready by the start of training camp.

We can look at the Starks situation from several angles here. The Steelers could certainly use a healthy Starks for depth purposes. Should Scott end up being jettisoned prior to the start of the season, it would leave the rookie Adams and perhaps another tackle on the roster that does not have game experience to serve as the next man up in case starters Marcus Gilbert and Willie Colon go down injured. A few might disagree with me, but I think Adams will be a project for a while. Mid-season is when I expect him to be ready to contribute.

Should Starks be close to being ready by the start of training camp, the Steelers could always sign him to a one-year qualified contract that comes with a reduced cap hit and let him start the preseason on the ACTIVE/PUP list while he at least learns the new offense that new offensive coordinator Todd Haley is installing. That would give Starks an extra 6 weeks or so to continue his rehab under the watchful eye of the team doctors and get him back around the guys in addition. Keep in mind that he and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger are pretty close.

Should Starks still not be ready by the time the final cut downs take place at the end of preseason, he could be placed on the RESERVE/PUP list to get another 6 weeks worth of recovery time. He would not count against the 53 man roster at that point and his cap hit would be easy to swallow. Once he is ready after his six week stay on the PUP list, he could return to the sidelines to serve as the Steelers swing tackle. In the mean time the Steelers could cover their asses by holding on to Scott and ask him to take a pay cut prior to week one if he wants to stay.

Of course the No. 78 might not have been reissued out of shear coincidence, but it sure makes you wonder. It is now safe to remove your tin foil hats, but please keep them within arms\’ reach of you for future post.

Who reading this thinks Max will be back this year at some point?

UPDATE: As Dave notes in the comments, when you click on the name of tackle Trevis Turner it shows No. 78 on his bio page. I guess we will have to wait and see if the official roster is updated to reflect this. Until then, keep your tin foil hats handy.