A couple of weeks ago I made the case that the Steelers should consider bringing back Offensive Tackle Max Starks for one more season if the organization believed his health would not be an issue. Yesterday, Pittsburgh’s Front Office and Coaching Staff appeared to have some confidence in Starks and his health, because they re-signed the veteran to a one year deal. While Starks will likely assume a backup “swing” Tackle role this season behind Marcus Gilbert and Rookie Mike Adams, Pittsburgh obviously understood the value of having an experienced veteran at their disposal for depth purposes along their Offensive Line.
Starks however is not the only experienced backup which the Steelers currently have on their roster heading into Training Camp at the end of the month. In fact, for the first time in over a decade, the Steelers actually have some experienced and versatile backup players which they can turn to at multiple positions in the trenches. And on a positional unit which has been beset by injuries in recent years, experienced depth definitely qualifies as a valued plus as the team prepares for the 2012 season.
Max Starks (Tackle)
Not much more needs to be said about Max Starks outside of what I discussed in the previous post which I alluded to in the opening paragraphs. If you would like even more positive thoughts on the matter, then check out Craig’s post from last night as well as he delves into Starks’ recent signing.
Thus, all I will say on Pittsburgh’s recent signing of Starks is this: While he might not be the 2008 version of himself agility wise, Starks is still a valued backup at either Tackle spot for this team, and an enormous upgrade over the sieve-like Jonathan Scott. There is hardly a substitute for a backup Tackle which has started 79 games over his career, started and played effectively at both Tackle spots on two Super Bowl winning teams, and can provide veteran leadership. As long as Starks’ knee and body as a whole can hold up over the course of the season, this is a solid investment made by the franchise for 2012.
Doug Legursky (Center/Guard)
Having risen from the Practice Squad, to earning a backup job on the game-day roster, to spot-starting Guard and Center over the last few seasons, Doug Legursky has emerged as a solid role player for the Steelers along their Offensive Line. And as the Steelers’ most versatile Interior backup, Legursky has seen quite a bit of action and gained a wealth of experience due to injuries and inconsistent play since 2009.
At Guard, Legursky has stepped in at both the Left and Right Guard positions over the last couple of seasons. Whether it was him stepping in for injured players, beating out Chris Scott and Tony Hills on the depth chart, or replacing an inconsistent Chris Kemoeatu late last year, Legursky has been able to work his way onto the field. As for his stints as the Center, because Maurkice Pouncey dinged up at times over the last couple of years (including Super Bowl XLV), the short yet gritty Legursky has been pressed into duty and done an adequate enough job to solidify his place as the permanent backup at the position.
Overall, the former UDFA out of Marshall has played in a total of 35 games, started 14 overall, and started a career high 10 in 2011 alone. Even though it now appears that Rookie David DeCastro will be manning the Right Guard spot on a permanent basis, Legursky will nevertheless be an instrumental cog in Pittsburgh’s Offensive Line plans this season if injuries beset the Interior of the Steelers’ Offensive Line.
Ramon Foster (Guard)
Foster took a similar path to Legursky in terms of how he rose up the depth chart and assumed a starting role. Undrafted as a Tackle out of the University of Tennessee in 2009, Foster climbed from the Practice Squad into the starting lineup during his Rookie season, beat out 3rd Round bust Kraig Urbik, and has earned a number of starts and playing time ever since.
Beginning in 2009, Foster has slowly accumulated a wealth of starts and experience for the Steelers over said span. After starting 4 games during his Rookie season, Foster started 8 during the Steelers 2010 A.F.C. Championship campaign, and a career-high total of 14 last year. In addition to his 26 starts, Foster has shown some versatility and logged time at both the Left and Right Guard positions, including finishing out 2011 as the starting Right Guard. Yet in spite of Foster’s experience and continued development, he will likely not enter Training Camp with the 1st Team on the depth chart.
Because of Willie Colon’s move to Left Guard and the selection of DeCastro in Round 1 of this April’s Draft, Foster is likely to be Pittsburgh’s “Third Guard” in 2012. Nevertheless, the veteran and experienced Foster will likely be the best backup option at either Guard spot, and will be counted on to step up and contribute if the scenario presents itself.
Offensive Line Coach Sean Kugler must be as giddy as any Steelers Coach, Player, or Fan as the 2012 season draws near. Pouncey and Gilbert are already in place, then when you factor in the possibility of Colon being healthy and DeCastro and Adams playing up to par, and a recipe for success for the Steelers’ Offensive Line is in the making for years to come.
But almost as important as the collective talent of the starting five along the Offensive Line is the experience and overall effectiveness of their backups. With Starks, Legursky, and Foster, the Steelers should have at least some comfort in knowing that if something happens to deviate the team from their original plans regarding the Offensive Line this season, a capable backup can step in and help. Thus, the Steelers should thus count themselves lucky to have backups like Foster, Legursky, and most of all Starks at their disposal in 2012. Not many teams can turn to their 2nd Team Offensive Line and have players with the type of experience those three have obtained over the years, and for insurance purposes they are a solid backup trio for the Steelers to have on their roster.
Now it’s your turn readers: Will the projected starting five play up to a high standard this season? Will injuries hurt this unit once again? Will the depth be good enough to get this team deep into the postseason?