Starks reality: He hopes to play before regular season
Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks works out with the PUP group during training camp workouts at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.
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Max Starks is accustomed to quick turnarounds and baptism by fire. He just isn't sure when the next round of such events will be.
All of a sudden, his return from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament -- sustained in the January playoff loss in Denver -- has become a bigger issue after rookie left tackle Mike Adams' rocky start in the Steelers' preseason opener.
But it probably won't be an issue for Starks, who, at 30, is the old man in the offensive line. Last year, four days after being re-signed because injuries had decimated their offensive line, Starks started against Tennessee and looked as though he never had been away.
The Steelers rushed for 174 yards, their second-highest total of the season, and Ben Roethlisberger had time to throw five touchdowns in an easy victory against the Titans.
Starks might have to do that again, only this time in the season opener in Denver. Still, he would prefer to get a little preseason warmup before he does.
"I didn't need it last year," said Starks, who is on the physically-unable-to-perform list and cannot practice until he is removed from it. "But this is a new offense. It's a lot more confusing than I thought it would be. It's the same stuff, but the names [of the plays] and the way it's called is different. I'm always going, 'Oh, this play is old such-and-such.' "
Starks has started 80 games for the Steelers in his eight years with the team and would be lending a lot of experience to a line that will start center Maurkice Pouncey, who turned 23 last month; second-year right tackle Marcus Gilbert and likely rookie David DeCastro at right guard.
But he is coming off ACL surgery and wasn't re-signed by the team until the week before training camp, leading many to assume that Adams, a No. 2 draft choice, was being handed the left-tackle job.
But, after giving up two sacks in his first 17 snaps in the preseason opener Thursday night in Philadelphia,
Adams might have to wait a little longer. What's more, he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee on his second allowed sack and likely will be sidelined at least two weeks.
Enter Starks. Again.
"I am more concerned with being ready for the regular season," Starks said. "That is the goal. Hopefully, I'll get out here sooner and at least practice and get back into the rhythm of things."
Starks' contribution at right and left tackle has been as massive as his 6-foot-8, 345-pound frame.
He is one of Ben Roethlisberger's best friends on the team and sits next to him in the locker room. Roethlisberger wore a No. 78 jersey to practice when Starks was unsigned -- a show of support by the quarterback to bring back the player who has protected his front and back side since 2004.
Eventually, Starks will be replaced by Adams, but that might not be as soon as some people projected.
"You just have to bounce back," said Gilbert, who has moved to left tackle to replace Adams. "I know my first start in the preseason wasn't that pretty, but you just have to learn from it and move on. He saw the film, he saw what he has to correct. Unfortunately, the preseason is different than the regular season. When the regular season comes, it will be fast, it will be lights out."
And that might be the next time Adams gets to play. He is expected to miss the next two preseason games, beginning Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts at Heinz Field.
But Gilbert said Adams' debut performance was not as bad as it looked.
"He did some pretty impressive things," Gilbert said. "Obviously, the sacks stand out, but he did some impressive things in run-blocking. He's going to improve. He's a player who's going to bounce back.
"But [the sacks] are part of being an offensive lineman. What's ever on film, you have to live with it and go out there and correct it. You're not going to have a perfect game. Everyone knows that."
And you might not always get a lot of sympathy.
"I didn't try to pat him on the back and give him milk and cookies," Starks said. "He came and asked me what I saw, and I gave him my opinion and that was it. The best thing is you get on the field and make the corrections yourself."
• Preseason Game 2: Steelers vs. Colts.
• When: 7:30 p.m. August 19.
• Where: Heinz Field.
First Published August 13, 2012 12:00 am