In recent offseasons, the Steelers have taken a "break glass in case of emergency" approach to veteran left tackle Max Starks. Specifically: The team has been uninterested in re-signing him unless forced to do so by injuries, depth concerns, or some combination of the two -- even if Starks has been reliable as Ben Roethlisberger's blindside protector.
This offseason has been no different, despite Starks starting 16 gameslast season without incident. This time, though, it appears the Steelers have decided to go in another direction. On Monday, the team announced it had signed veteran journeyman Guy Whimper, a former fourth-round pick of the Giants who spent the last three seasons with the Jaguars.
In the scheme of things, it's not exactly an earth-shaking personnel move. But for the Steelers, a team that has historically struggled to protect its franchise quarterback, the offensive line is always a point of contention. Which explains why the team's decision to sign Whimper -- over a perfectly capable Starks -- was met with some skepticism by media folks who keep up with such things.
JJ Cooper, who closely follows offensive line play (and also happens to be a Steelers fan), sent out this series of tweets when the news broke that the organization thought it would be a good idea to pay Whimper to play football.
Guy Whimper is one of the worst tackles in the league. He's been HORRENDOUS in pass pro in Jacksonville. Ughhhh.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) May 6, 2013
Can't think of a worse pickup RT @fo_wordofmuth: Guy Whimper is a classic Steeler move.....— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) May 6, 2013
In 2011, Guy Whimper had a nine-game streak of giving up at least one sack every week.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) May 6, 2013
Here's what Cooper wrote in December 2011 in his column for FootballOutsiders.com: "Whimper leads the league with 12.5 sacks allowed. Eight of those sacks have come when Whimper's man wrapped up (Blaine) Gabbert less than three seconds after the snap."
That's the opposite of a ringing endorsement. As is this: The Jaguars, like Cooper, realized that Blaine Gabbert was pretty good when he had more than 2.5 seconds to throw a pass. When he had less time than that, he was one of the league's worst passers. The solution: Draft tackle Luke Joeckel and send Whimper on his way.
Whimper will be a backup in Pittsburgh but if recent history is any guide, he should expect to see some playing time. In recent years, Jonathan Scott, Ramon Foster and Kelvin Beachum have had to fill in for injured starters and the results have ranged from passable to "Oh my God, someone's gonna get killed out there."
Meanwhile, Starks remains unemployed. Go figure.