The recent signing of OT Max Starks could indicate multiple things. It raises legitimate questions about the future of OT Jonathan Scott, about the development of rookie OT Mike Adams and the team's need for leadership among an offensive line that won't have one single player playing next to the guy they were next to last year.
The first of these questions is whether Starks will even be ready to play at the start of the year. It seems likely, even with reports of strong recovery from a torn ACL in January, Starks will miss much, if not all, of training camp (likely to start on the PUP list), he can be removed from that before the season starts.
But how many reps does a eight-year veteran with recent success in bailing the team out without having participated in training camp need?
Since other back-up candidate, veteran Jonathan Scott, doesn't have a salary guaranteed unless he makes the roster, it seems more likely Starks prepares mentally for much of training camp, and Scott is the physical competitor to Adams. Giving Scott a chance to compete against Adams there, and Starks in meeting rooms, doesn't bode well, especially considering the 14 sacks QB Ben Roethlisberger took when Scott was the team's starting left tackle through the first four games of the 2011 season.
Simply put, Scott is expendable, and his release would save $2.2 million against the cap. He'll likely remain on the roster in the event of the unforeseen happening at any point along the way.
Starks is an upgrade over Scott anyway, so it seems unlikely the Steelers would want to pay Scott that much to be the likely fourth offensive tackle on the depth chart.
Things happen, though, and there's no sense in writing decisions in stone on July 18.
With that said, it wouldn't be a surprise if Starks began the year as the team's starting left tackle. Just like that, in one day, the marquee training camp match-up turns into Starks vs. Adams - and Starks may not even be on the field right away.