Yesterday, knowledgeable members of Steeler Nation were pleased to hear the news that veteran tackle Max Starks had re-signed with the team on a one year deal. Though it is not the ideal scenario that he start (the hope is that rookie second round left tackle Mike Adams out of Ohio State will be ready to start week 1), it is a valuable option. In addition, the return of Starks shores up the weakest link in an otherwise very promising rebuilt offensive line that includes 4 picks in the top 2 rounds of the draft over the past 3 seasons: depth at the tackle position.
When looking at the opening day starting lineup in 2011, it is projected that there will be only one starter returning to his position when this season gets under way: All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert, a rookie 2nd round pick last year, did start 13 games, but Willie Colon was the starting right tackle on opening day before being lost for the season due to injury.
Gilbert is now cemented in the right tackle position, and Colon has been moved to left guard. Right guard will likely be manned by highly touted rookie first round pick David DeCastro, with either Adams or Starks starting at left tackle. Starks provides an insurance policy in case the rookie is not ready immediately, and also provides veteran depth at both tackle positions (he has started at both positions on Super Bowl-winning teams).
What many may not realize, however, is that the signing of Max Starks actually increases the Steelers’ ability to re-sign Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Wallace. This is because Starks would, in all likelihood, replace tackle Jonathan Scott on the roster, and the Steelers stand to save over $2 million by releasing Scott.
No doubt, the news of Starks’ signing is unlikely to cause much of a stir amongst the fans of other teams; however, Wallace’s contract situation is another matter. Not only is he an elite performer at his position, he currently stands to be a prized free agent next season if the Steelers do not work out a long-term deal with him before the beginning of the regular season this year.
He currently has an approximately $2.7 million first round tender contract offer that he has yet to sign, which allows the team to retain his rights for this season, but that is as far as it goes. Whether or not he will be on the open market next offseason will be determined during the next 6 weeks, so it is worth taking a look at the Steelers’ position to see if it is feasible to give Wallace a contract that he is comfortable with.