Second Annual Max Starks No. 78 Tin Foil Hat Post

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.

  • TJimmy

    It baffles me as to why Max can’t seem to get any respect. He’s a really good teammate and while his play may not be top tier, it has been more than adequate for the toughest position on the offensive line.

  • Lamarr56

    I don’t know if Max will come back if he won’t be a starter, I really hope he does though.

  • NW86

    Yep, it seems Max’s stock really dropped in 2011 and he has never recovered his reputation. Remember when Max signed that huge contract with the Steelers, in about 2009 I think? Everyone respected him then. But in 2011 after the lockout, he came to camp out of shape, and the Steelers cut him to get out of his giant cap hit. His phone never rang then, and meanwhile Colon got hurt and the Steelers struggled with their backup tackles early in the season, and then they ended up re-signing him at league minimum around week 3 or 4. Then he tore up his knee at the end of the 2011 season and again, no one was interested in the offseason. He ended up signing at the minimum again in July. This offseason, he should be healthy, but I guess he has just fallen off of teams radar. This lack of attention from other teams could spell good news again for the Steelers though.

  • steeltown

    Bring back Max, Bring back Max
    Come on Steelers you need the depth and the experience, come on Max you have to know that you wont start on any other Team at this point, so take a job with the Steelers buddy, we all love ya

  • As I was checking out some of the pics from the early OTAs over the last week or so, it was clear to see how in shape Pouncey, Decastro and Mike Adams seem to look…Marcus Gilbert, not so much (still injured?). This year the line needs to be more mobile on the run than ever. Does Max fit that bill and has he kept his weight in check this year?? If he wants to be a starter, I hope he has. We’ll see.

  • Pete

    I like Starks and the Steelers looked silly after Jonathan Scott fell on his face. I think Starks still has value as Dave says. I agree the Steelers shouldn’t guarantee him a starting position. Starks brings a lot of knowledge with his experience. I think it’s always good to have a veteran around to help transition from old to young.

  • steeltown

    True, he might not be the most mobile OLineman, but he still provides good depth and a mentor to the young guys on the OLine. We are going to be installing more of a zone blocking scheme, but it wont be zone every play, so for the price that Max would most likely cost, I think it would be a great idea to try and bring him in

  • David Edward

    Yep, I noticed right away 78 wasn’t given out. I think they’ll sign Starks after 6/1 in time for mandatory mini camp. Maybe will sign Legursky too, but I think that’s much less of a priority. Caldwell would be a better choice if they can make it happen. I don’t think Hampton will return unless the young NTs look horrible in camp.

  • Oh trust me, I would much rather have Starks manning the left if it came down to him and Gilbert. I think Adams could use one more year over at RT for experience and to get his pass protection shored up….

  • steeltown

    Agreed. Max can play LT and RT and at this point, he’s just as mobile as Gilbert, so why not, right?


    I wonder if Miami is sniffing around there…maybe based on a recommendation from their highest paid player?

  • Jollyrob68

    I expected him to sign with Arizona. I’m a little surprised that he hasn’t.

  • Dan

    I like Max and think he’d be a valuable addition to the team, but obviously I hope that we get better performance from the youngsters and are set for the long term.
    This article also raised a bigger concern for me. There’s still another 3 months before preseason and 4 months before the regular season. The off-season seems to go on for ever….especially in years we don’t make the playoffs. 🙁

  • VizBurgh

    They also haven’t issued # 16 yet. You have to think the Steelers have Charlie Batch as an automatic signing if there’s an injury to Ben or Gradkowski.

  • Shelob9

    Are the Steelers allowed to agree to terms with a player now, with the deal going into effect June 1st, when the deal would otherwise push them over the cap? I mean isn’t the deal with Colon that we technically havn’t cut him yet, and the Jets tecnhincally havn’t signed him yet, but we agreed to cut him June 1st and they agreed to sign him then according to terms they already negotiated?