After tearing his ACL in the loss to the Denver Broncos in the 2011 playoffs, Max Starks came back and played every snap for the Steelers at left tackle in 2012. Even though Starks has been a more than solid tackle for the Steelers in his career, the team decided that it would move on with Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams at the tackle positions. The Steelers made an attempt to bring Starks back but the veteran tackle still viewed himself as a starter and the team would not give him that opportunity. That being said, there had been little interest in Starks for most of the offseason and there was hope from Steelers’ fans that the team would be able to re-sign him at some point.
Those hopes were shot down on Tuesday, May 21, when according to Bill Williamson of the Associated Press via ESPN.com, Starks signed a one year deal with the San Diego Chargers.
The Steelers tried to get rid of Starks before and even went into the 2011 regular season with Jonathan Scott as the starting left tackle. After watching Ben Roethlisberger get killed to start the season, the team re-signed Starks and he started the rest of the year. Then after Starks tore his ACL in the playoff loss to the Broncos there was speculation that the team would not re-sign him again. As stated above, Starks went on to start every game in 2012 on an offensive line that seemed to get someone else hurt every week.
With Starks leaving that leaves Ben Roethlisberger as the last one left from the 2004 draft class and puts immense pressure on whoever wins the left tackle job for 2013. I expect Marcus Gilbert win the job and if he stays healthy I think he can do the job. The problem is that we’re going from a known commodity in Max Starks to the unknown in Gilbert and Adams. Another factor is that both Gilbert and Adams are coming off of seasons where they ended up on injured reserve. Even if Starks didn’t begin the season as a starter, he would have given the team great depth in case of injury.
Right now the Steelers do not really have a backup left tackle on the roster other than whoever loses the job between Gilbert and Adams in camp. The only other tackles on currently on the roster are Guy Whimper, Kelvin Beachum, Joe Long, Mike Farrell, and Ramon Foster. Foster will be the starting guard and only really has experience at right tackle. Guy Whimper is a veteran but he is a right tackle and I don’t even consider him to have a legitimate shot to make the roster. Joe Long is just a camp body and although I think Mike Farrell has a good shot to make the roster, he is an undrafted rookie and I would hope the team doesn’t have to rely on him this season. That leaves Kelvin Beachum who is being groomed to be the ultimate swing offensive lineman but even he hasn’t gotten time at left tackle.
I actually think the team should have a very good offensive line this season but all it will take is one injury to completely change that. The past couple seasons the team has had the luxury of being able to call Max Starks and bring him in as an instant starter. Now the team is going to find out if they made the right decision in going all in with the two young tackles in Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams.
Let’s just hope everyone can stay healthy and although it is hard to see Max Starks go, I wish him luck with his new team.