|Max is back. (US PRESSWIRE)|
In a move that wasn't completely unexpected if for no other reason that it would simply be history repeating itself, the Steelers re-signed veteran tackle Max Starks to a one-year deal Tuesday. This time, though, the organization didn't wait until a month into the season to bring him back. In 2011, Starks was signed before the Week 5 game against the Titans. He started that week, and in each subsequent week until he tore his ACL in the wild-card loss to the Broncos.
The former third-round pick out of Florida has been one of the Steelers' most dependable offensive linemen in recent years, but his future with the team was in doubt because he was an unrestricted free agent coming off a serious knee injury. Add in that Pittsburgh used its first- and second-round picks on guard David DeCastro and tackle Mike Adams, and Starks' situation appeared even more tenuous.
It's real and sealed! I'll be seeing you in Latrobe! instagr.am/p/NMQ9-hufnW/— Max Starks IV (@maxstarks78) July 17, 2012
But with second-year tackle Marcus Gilbert set to remain on the right side, Starks will provide quality depth behind Adams, who will be given an opportunity to win the job outright in training camp.
For the first time in a long time, the Steelers' offensive line could be a strength (legitimately -- not in the "it's not a bug it's a feature!" sense). Though, as Football Outsiders notes in their annual Football Outsiders Almanac (you can pick yours up here), the new faces won't mean much if Pittsburgh can't keep their front five healthy. In addition to Starks, Willie Colon was lost last season after Week 1, and Maurkice Pouncey also missed time with a hamstring injury.
According to FOA, the 2011 season "marked the fourth straight season in which Pittsburgh had an offensive line that ranked among the eight most injured in the NFL. During that time span, the unit has averaged 24.9 (adjusted games lost), which is the equivalent of 1.6 player seasons lost to injury."
From the perspective of mid-July when everyone's healthy, the Steelers are in great shape. Whether that changes in the coming months will be a function of how well the rookies play and if the o-line can avoid injuries.
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