I was a bit taken aback when I read a post by Josh Alper last week on Pro Football Talk which read: “Max Starks nearing 100 percent, still no spot for him with Steelers.” In the post, Alper discussed how Starks’ rehab coming off of his torn ACL has gone quite well, and that Starks said he is nearing 100%. Unfortunately for Starks, the Steelers apparently are not very interested in bringing him back for his 9th season. According to a recent tweet from Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (linked by Alper), the Steelers “won’t consider Starks until/if Adams fails or an injury to Gilbert.”
I was a tad shocked when I read the aforementioned tweet, because I figured that the Steelers would at least consider giving Starks a tryout or at least a chance to prove to the organization that his knee was healthy coming off of his injury which he sustained in the Playoffs. In fact, I believe that if Starks’ health holds up, he would actually be a valuable signing for the Steelers, because he could bring three very important things to the 2012 team: depth, experience, and leadership.
Depth, Experience, and Leadership
Injuries have completely ravaged the Offensive Line over the last few seasons, but most notably at the Tackle position. Starks, as well as Willie Colon, and Jonathan Scott have gone down with injuries, and turned in some less than stellar performances. This has led to mass shuffling along the Offensive Line and guys like Flozell Adams and even Starks have been signed late in the offseason/during the regular season. To their credit, the Steelers have done their due diligence and acquired two fantastic young Tackles in the last two Drafts in the forms of Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams, yet there is not a whole heck of a lot of experience behind both the Rookie Adams and Gilbert who is just starting his 2nd season.
Yet on a positional unit that is just beginning to get settled, disaster could strike in the form of injury or poor play and Rookie mistakes at any minute. With those things in mind, depth, especially experienced depth is a valuable asset to have, and Starks has plenty of experience. Plus, do you want to see Jonathan Scott or another backup with limited experience taking snaps and protecting Big Ben’s blind-side on a consistent basis again? Protecting #7 is the most important thing for this franchise to do, and the best way is making sure that he can stand upright, no matter what sorts of injuries happen at the Offensive Tackle position.
Furthermore, what better mentor to have for guys like Gilbert and Adams, along with the rest of the young Offensive Linemen than Starks? The guy has played 8 seasons in the League, started 79 games over 8 seasons, started at Right Tackle for one Super Bowl winning team, and at Left Tackle for another. He has experienced demotion (when he lost his Right Tackle job to Willie Colon), injuries (missed most of 2010 with neck injury), and all sorts of other ups and downs over his eight year career. Starks knows what it takes to be a professional, play well, and carve out a long career in the League. Because of this, he could be a solid influence for the Offensive Linemen as well as the younger players to look up to in the locker room.
Look, I am not on the “Starks Right Now!” bandwagon as of yet. He is still rehabbing the injury he sustained last offseason, and there is still time before Training Camp, the Preseason, and even the Regular Season all begin for this situation to be sorted out. Yet if the price is right for the somewhat cash-strapped Steelers to sign Starks (hopefully Wallace can be signed for at least this season), I say there is no harm in at least giving the guy a tryout. If Starks is signed and does not play a snap this season because Gilbert and Adams play well/stay healthy, then so be it. He was there for depth purposes, and I am sure that he was a valuable veteran Lineman to have at the team’s disposal. Yet if in the off-chance Starks is forced to play, the team can at least know that they have a legitimate and reliable option to go to if disaster strikes. Plus, Starks is a far better backup option at the Tackle position than Jonathan Scott has proved to be over the last two years as well.
Adams and Gilbert may be the future of this franchise at the Tackle position, and both could very well develop into the best set of bookends this franchise has had since probably before I was born. However, depth is key is the N.F.L., and teams’ without any, do not accomplish very much over the long haul of a season. Starks can provide depth, leadership, and experience to a young and emerging Offensive Line. Thus, I believe that the Steelers should not hesitate to bring Starks in this season if he is healthy and can be signed at a reasonable price.
What do you readers think? Should Starks be signed if he is healthy? Or should the team cut ties?
Stats Courtesy of: Pro Football Reference.com