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Steelers counting on Max Starks to start the regular season, but will he be ready?

The injury to Steelers left tackle Mike Adams may or not keep him out a full two weeks but in the mean time it’s creating some situations on the offensive line, one of which is the availability of Max Starks to return for the regular season opener. If you’ve heard what Offensive Line Coach Sean Kugler says, he’s counting on Starks to be ready for the opener, telling us two things. First that Adams is likely to miss too much time to be ready to start against the Broncos, and two that the team wants to keep Marcus Gilbert on the right side and use Starks over on the left if he’s ready to go.

Mike Adams said that he expects to return within 2 weeks, but Mike Tomlin said after training camp on Saturday that he’s not going to speculate right now other than they’ll take it one day at a time. Players are normally more optimistic their return after an injury and coaches error on the side of caution.  For now the Steelers are trying several available options on both sides of the line, including playing Ramon Foster, normally a guard, at RT and playing Marcus Gilbert over on the left side. That’s only a temporary trial though and just to keep Gilbert ready should he need to step in at some point. They want Starks to be ready as you’ll read below but let’s just hope that he doesn’t rush back and prolong the recovery. If Max Starks has anything to say about it though, he wants to be back by the time the season starts.

According to some tweets on Sunday afternoon, Starks is doing all he can in case his name needs to be called against Denver. From Chuck Finder of CBS Sports: Max Starks predicted he’d be able to play in theoretical reg-season game at “the end of August.”That means (he thinks) he’ll be 100% in 3wks.

From Ken Laird of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Starks: “I feel like I’m coming along nicely… I don’t want there to be a doubt when I come back that I’m at full speed”. You want to give [the knee] time to make sure it’s sturdy. We take on a lot of force… push, hold, & re-direct.

Also from Mike Prisuta: asked Max Starks what Mike Adams’ injury has done to the tackle position “It creates some situations”

Via Jim Wexell: “I feel good,” he said. “We’ve been running every day when we’re out on the field, so everything’s felt good. I haven’t really had any setbacks or any type of swelling or anything. I feel like I’m getting along there. We’re doing more agility stuff and more position-specific work, so we’ll see when Dr. (Jim) Bradley gets up here what his assessment is and see if I can do something limited, at least do something individual. We’ll see.”

Kugler said he’s been paying close attention to Starks’s recovery, made all the more important by the injury to Michael Adams. When asked to share any information on Starks’s recovery, all Kugler would say was, “He’s working his ass off.”

Kugler and Mike Tomlin will keep a close eye on Starks but it’s always up to the players to be honest with the coaches about their status, and that’s sometimes easier said than done because they want to be out there helping their teammates.

He says that he wants to make sure he’s fulled healed before coming back and that makes you feel better but you also know as an athlete that he’s probably going to try and push himself a little harder to try and be ready.

The thing you have to be concerned about is if Starks does rush back even a little bit and suffers a setback both he and the team could be worse off than where they are now. Starks came in last year after the season started and was literally the savior of the line after all the injuries hit Sean Kugler’s group so early. It’s not a matter of him knowing the plays, or even last year being so out of shape but rather how will the knee hold up the first time he has to take on a bull rush from a defender, and try to stand his ground. He’s listed at 345 lbs now, which is much better than last year when he was well over 370 lbs at one point. Still though it’s hard enough for an athlete closer to the size of a regular guy to come back, but a guy who’s a skyscraper like Starks, you have to be just as careful if not more.

The opportunities are there for guys like Foster to step in if Adams’ injury lingers but Starks knows they brought him back for a reason, just for times like this so he wants to be ready…let’s just hope he’s really ready when and if that time comes.

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