Steelers GM Kevin Colbert Says Door Not Closed On Max Starks & Casey Hampton Possibly Returning

During his annual pre draft press conference on Monday, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was asked if he had ruled out tackle Max Starks and nose tackle Casey Hampton possibly returning this season.

“No, we haven\’t shut the door on anybody, quite honestly, that was with us last year, because we don\’t know what we\’re going to come out of the weekend with,” said Colbert. “There may be some signees from that group of players, and again, it depends on how we fare out this weekend. I think that they would prefer to wait as well, because they could sign a contract and end up behind a first-round draft pick. So, we will keep those types of players in mind as we get through this weekend and see where things stand on Monday.”

While that sounds all fine and good, the fact remains that the Steelers only have just over $600,000 in cap space available to them until June, when the release of guard Willie Colon will become official and free up an additional $5 million-plus in cap space. Should either Starks or Hampton want to play for the Steelers in 2013, both would presumably have to accept one-year qualifying contracts for the minimum that come with reduced cap hits.

In addition to taking the minimum, both players would also have to accept the fact that neither will be guaranteed a starting job. Both Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams are expected to be the starting tackles this season, while Steve McLendon, who signed a new three-year contract this past weekend, is expected to be the starting nose tackle this year.

Starks said after the 2012 season ended that he would be open to returning to Pittsburgh in 2013, but not as a backup. Perhaps his demands have lowered by now as it doesn\’t appear that he has received any attention from other teams since the free agency signing period started.

Hampton, who said at the end of last season that he thinks he still has a couple of years left in him, as far as we can tell, hasn\’t garnered any interest from other teams either. That could of course change very quickly after the draft, however.

Should both Starks and Hampton accept qualifying deals, they would each count $620,000 against the salary cap, assuming they received the maximum signing bonus allowed of $65,000. If that wound up being the case, both could conceivably be fit under the salary cap after displacement takes place, but just barely.

Of the two, Starks would most likely have the best shot at returning. For starters, the Steelers lack depth currently at the tackle position, and second, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is probably lobbying hard for him.

How will it play out with both veterans? Never say never, but if either were to return, I would be willing to bet that it wouldn\’t happen until after June 1st.

  • dgh57

    I agree of the 2 Starks would be the most likely to return simply because Gilbert hasn’t shown he’s the answer at LT. He missed a lot of games last year, is that a 1 year thing or the start of a trend? So if Gilbert goes down they’ll be calling Starks #! Of course, even that depends on what happens in the draft this weekend.

  • David Edward

    Agreed, I think they need a vet LT one way or another to backup. Starks would be a nice insurance policy. Unless they got Fisher, Joeckel, or Johnson in the draft (which they won’t), I don’t see them picking a LT.

  • Cool!

  • Nolrog

    I could see Starks returning for veteran leadership and depth on the line. I really don’t see Hampton returning though. That ship has sailed.

  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    Starks should return unless the draft includes a huge suprise along the line which seems doubtful. Hampton’s return feels iffy; I’m curious to see Alameda and Hebron actually play.

  • I hope BA does not pick up Starks with all of the Oline help the Cardinals need. It would be nice to have Starks on speed dial in case someone gets injured. Same for Casey in case Steve gets rolled up on.

  • mokhkw

    Starks wants to start, so unless they say the starting LT job is his to lose then I don’t see him returning, at least not until June/July. He won’t play for Vet minimum.

    If Arizona don’t draft a starting LT in the Draft I think there is a good chance Starks ends up there with Levi Brown moving to RT.

    Hampton will also be a June/July decision. They’ll see what they have there 1st. If no NT gets Drafted then it’s more likely he returns for vet minimum

    In any case, don’t expect any fast post-draft signings for either player to return to the Steelers. It will be a wait & see

  • steeltown

    I think Starks is forgetting that most players along the OLine and DLine are not guaranteed a starting role, players compete and the best wins (Foster has proven that) but that being said, would love to have Starks back for depth

    Unless of course some OL prospects fall and they find a stud OT in earlier-mid Rds of the draft

  • NW86

    I would think Charlie Batch would be a possibility too. They still need another QB on the roster, so if they don’t use a late-round draft pick on one, I think Charlie gets 1 more year at the minimum. Legursky is a possibility too, if they don’t end up with any interior linemen in the draft.

  • westernsteel

    Not sure Starks would return without being guaranteed to start. I think they should move on, hopefully they find depth after the draft.

  • lefnor

    Please don’t draft a NT this year and bring back Big Snack.
    Louis Nix should be the next great Steelers NT.