Steelers’ Tackle Position in Flux

Max Starks is one of a number of talented free agents for Pittsburgh in 2013A few weeks back, the Pittsburgh Steelers addressed many needs in the 2013 NFL Draft. They went after guys to help fill voids at running back, receiver, linebacker and defensive backfield to a name a few. The one area they did not address was the offensive line. In what seemed like the first time since the Nixon Administration, the Steelers did not draft anyone for the O-Line.

My guess is that they feel pretty comfortable with the current group they have in Mike Adams, Marcus Gilbert, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Ramon Foster as their starters.

Earlier this week, it appeared that any ship with Max Starks on it returning to Pittsburgh has set sailed for other waters. The Steelers brought in tackle Guy Whimper, a veteran who has been in the league for seven years but has just 22 career starts. This signing would signify the end of Max Starks’ time in Pittsburgh.

While Starks has never been confused with the second coming of Anthony Munoz, he has been a good, solid offensive lineman who has protected Ben Roethlisberger’s blind-side for many years. Starks gave up just a handful of sacks last year, but gave up 40 or so ‘QB pressures.’

With the amount of money Starks would have been asking for, they chose to go in a different direction with Whimper. Also in the fold is of course Kelvin Beachum who had five starts at tackle in his first season as a seventh round draft pick.

My concern moving forward probably has less to do with these guys and more to do with potential starters in Adams and Gilbert.

I honestly don’t know if I trust either of these guys at the all-important left tackle spot protecting the blind-side of Roethlisberger. I certainly expect both men to have better campaigns than they did last season as maturity and experience settle in but are they up to the challenge? Are their bodies up to the challenge might be the better question.

Both of these guys have already spent significant amounts of time on the sidelines. Gilbert played in just five games last season and Adams played in 10 games in his rookie campaign. Perhaps it’s just me, but at least in the case of Gilbert, it seems every game he plays he ends up coming off the field with some sort of injury at some point during the contest.

In Adams case, he more than proved he is a capable run blocker by steam-rolling defensive players at will. His problem was in pass protection where he gave up seven sacks and 15 QB pressures in ten games. That has to improve significantly.

With Beachum headed over to left guard as a back-up and potential starter over Foster, the tackle spots are relatively thin save for some of the guys signed in the free agency period right after the draft, but that means little experience. I certainly don’t know about you, but the thought of going into the season with Adams, Gilbert and Whimper as my top three tackles is not exactly giving me a warm and fuzzy feeling.

If Max Starks stays on the market and is there when training camp opens, I will assume his price will drop and the Steelers should not rule him out. This is a 31-year old guy who did not miss a snap last year despite coming off an ACL tear the season before.

Obviously, this could all be an afterthought if both Adams and Gilbert are indeed what the Steelers believe them to be going forward. I certainly hope they are right but that doesn’t mean I don’t have concerns for the well-being of them as well as our quarterback.

Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.

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