Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Max Starks passed the first test Saturday night in the 38-7 preseason win over the Buffalo Bills by making it through the first half with his surgically repaired right knee on the bothersome field turf of Ralph Wilson Stadium. The second test, you ask? Make it through Sunday without his knee swelling.
Starks, who last played a down in the Steelers loss in the AFC Wild Card game last January, was asked how his knee was feeling following the game.
“Excellent, I feel excellent. No pain,” Starks jokingly quipped.
“I felt really good out there,” the tackle added in a more serious tone. “Obviously I was only slated to play one quarter and I went through the whole first half and I felt good and if needed be I would have went out for that one play touchdown considered drive in the second half. But everything felt well. Obviously tomorrow we\’ll see if the knee will swell up from the turf, but as of right now everything felt good.”
That certainly is good for the Steelers offensive line, which now look to be without the services of rookie right guard David DeCastro for at good while, if not for the entire season, after he suffered what head coach Mike Tomlin called a possible severe knee injury during the Steelers second offensive possession.
Up until Starks was ready, it was rookie Mike Adams who failed to impress manning the blindside of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the Steelers first two preseason games. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert kept the left tackle seat warm in the second preseason game a week ago, but now with Starks back, he has moved back over to his right tackle spot.
While Starks looked like he didn\’t really trust the knee early on in the game, which is not unusual for any player coming off a torn ACL, he appeared to trust it more and more as the game wore on. He could have easily called it a night after the first quarter, but the fact that he pushed on through and played the entire first half shows that he truly did feel good.
Assuming the knee doesn\’t swell up now on Sunday, the next step for Starks is to get it to feel excellent by the time the opener gets here.