The Pittsburgh Steelers offseason continues on as we head into the Super Bowl weekend and we too will continue on now with our breakdown of the free agents as we inch closer towards the start of free agency. Next up on the list of unrestricted free agents is veteran tackle Max Starks.
Player: Max Starks
Experience: 9 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2012 Salary Cap Hit: $2,605,000.00 (Includes $2 million dead money charge from 2011 post June 1st release)
2012 Season Breakdown: Starks tore the ACL in his right knee during the 2011 Wild Card game against the Denver Broncos and spent the entire offseason rehabbing it as an unrestricted free agent. When finally cleared by the doctors he was re-signed by the Steelers to a one-year qualifying contract for the minimum just prior to the start of training camp. Although Starks started camp off on the PUP list, he had no problems beating out rookie Mike Adams for the left tackle spot and he would go on to play every snap on offense for the Steelers in 2012. That was quite an accomplishment for him, and the Steelers for that matter.
Starks no longer has the mobility that he once did, but his play was fairly even throughout the season. He did, however, allow 5 sacks, 8 quarterback hits during the year to go along with multiple pressures. Starks showed that he can still consistently control the edge against pass rushers, but was not as successful at defending good inside moves or bull rushers that could get their arms inside his chest. His ability to cut block is not what it once was, nor was his ability to block down inside on running plays. In the running game Starks was fine with his double team blocks and very consistent with his single blocks and ability to turn defenders out. On the move, however, Starks was innefective. The Steelers, however, were once again a right handed running team in 2012 with less than 50 running plays going to left tackle or around the left end.
Despite the play of Starks not being Pro Bowl caliber last season, he should be commended for his effort. It is hard to imagine what would have happened had Adams been forced to play on the left side as a rookie, or God forbid, Jonathan Scott would have been retained. With Starks, you always knew what you were going to get and he was a great veteran player to have in the lockerroom in addition.
Free Agency Outlook: The hiring of Jack Bicknell Jr. as the Steelers new offensive line coach means that a switch to a more zone orientated blocking scheme is likely in the future. This blocking scheme requires offensive linemen that can bend well, move fluidly, and be athletic out in space. These traits, unfortunately, are ones that Starks no longer possesses.
Starks, like the several other unrestricted free agents that the Steelers have this offseason, will be allowed to test the free agency waters. The good thing going for him is that he was a picture of health in his first season back from his knee injury and that should give him some level of value. While Starks likely won\'t hit it big contract wise during free agency, another team that uses a man blocking scheme will more than likely give him a one or two year deal. Starks himself said after the 2012 season ended that he would be open to returning to Pittsburgh in 2013, but that he was not interested in being a backup as he feels that he can still be a starting tackle in the league. Being as the Steelers are looking to get Adams in the lineup as a starter at one of the two tackle spots moving forward, Starks has likely played his last down of football in Pittsburgh and it would be surprising to see him return even as a backup.
Other 2012 Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Charlie Batch - Unrestricted Free Agent
Casey Hampton - Unrestricted Free Agent
Plaxico Burress - Unrestricted Free Agent
Larry Foote - Unrestricted Free Agent
Byron Leftwich - Unrestricted Free Agent
Will Allen - Unrestricted Free Agent
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