Steel City Insider publisher Jim Wexell has been a proponent of Steelers left tackle Max Starks. In the past he's chronicled Starks' journey from the transition tag to the franchise tag to his release and subsequent re-signing.
He also recently confirmed a rumor that's floated around those outside the franchise for a while; former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians did not like Max Starks.
Even more interesting, though, new Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley did. According to Wexell, Haley tried to sign Starks in 2011 after he was released by the Steelers in training camp. He was brought in for a tryout but wasn't signed, despite Haley's desire to get him in camp.
The issue behind that, as Wexell pointed out, is the liability a team must take on in signing an injured player. That team becomes responsible for future medical expenses, and the risk can be deemed as too great.
That was apparently the case for Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli. He was the same man behind the mid-season termination of Haley in 2011.
There's plenty of motivation for both Starks and Haley in this game.
Arians, now the offensive coordinator and interim head coach of the 6-3 Indianapolis Colts, was said to dislike Starks because of a lack of toughness. Ironically, with Haley in Pittsburgh, Starks is perhaps tougher in the run game than he's ever been. Also ironically, he's playing on an ACL that was torn in January, making him even more damaged, and his teammates, not his coach, are making him tougher, according to Wexell.
Also, the offensive line's toughness from last year to this year is a 180 degree turnaround. Whatever toughness Arians wanted, he didn't get it last season. Haley and Starks, castoffs in different ways by the same team, come together with personal desires to stick it to the team that pushed them to the side.
The main point here is suggesting Haley doesn't want this game to be the most dominating and perfectly executed game the Steelers have played to date is ridiculous. He would anyway, but competitors have long memories off the field - if for short ones on it.
Starks must also put aside a beating given to him by Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali in Pittsburgh's 13-9 win in 2011. He has plenty of reason to want to, though. He's wanted by his offensive coordinator now.