It\'s time again for my annual Max Starks speculation post based on nothing but the vacant jersey numbers listed on the Pittsburgh Steelers website and the severe lack of depth on the offensive line.
Nearly one year ago today I put on my black and gold tin foil hat and speculated that the vacant No. 78 might actually be vacant because the Steelers were hoping to sign Starks back as long as the rehab on his injured knee went well. My speculation ended up being right as Starks was eventually signed to a one-year contract right before the Steelers reported to training camp.
So is it really possible that Starks might be back again for one more season? As I have pointed out several times this offseason, the Steelers lack depth, not only on the interior portion of their line, but the tackle position as well. Sure, they have Kelvin Beachum on the roster, but the general consensus with him seems to be that he will make the move inside this season. Regardless of where Beachum plays or doesn\'t play, the only other tackles currently on the roster right now are Joe Long, Mike Farrell and Mike Golic Jr., all of whom have yet to take a snap in the NFL.
The Steelers brought in free agent tackle Winston Justice for a visit earlier this week, so that alone tells you that they aren\'t very comfortable with their tackle depth. Outside of Justice, Tyson Clabo remains unsigned as does Eric Winston, but odds are that both are wanting too much money.
During his pre draft press conference, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert let it be known that the door wasn\'t closed on Starks returning when asked about him.
"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."
As far as we know right now, Starks hasn\'t received legitimate interest from other teams this offseason. If he were to receive any interest moving forward, you would think that it would happen over the course of the next week or so as rosters around the league are filled and teams are preparing for their first OTA session. After all, it\'s not like they are waiting on him to rehab like last offseason.
The Steelers are really low on cap space right now, but they still have plenty of room for Starks, assuming of course he is willing to take another one-year qualifying contract like he did last year. If they need to wait for more cap room, they will get more in exactly one month. If Starks is wanting a guarantee that he will start in 2013, he\'s not going to get it from the Steelers, or any other team for that matter, at this point.
Starks played every offensive snap for the Steelers last season and he should be commended for that. Nobody would have bet that he would have been able to pull that off coming off of the injury that he had. It is time, however, for youth to be served in Pittsburgh. Starks still has a lot of experience and knowledge that he can pass along to both Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams while serving as a swing tackle. He might not start, but he can still help bring another Lombardi Trophy to Pittsburgh.
Should Starks not be signed by the start of the Steelers first OTA session later this month, I fully expect we will see quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wearing the No. 78 practice jersey just as he did last year. As long as No. 78 remains vacant on the Steelers roster, you have to think that it is being held aside for Starks. We shall see.
Just so you know, the No. 64 of Doug Legursky has also yet to be issued, not has the No. 98 of Casey Hampton.