It took Steelers LT Max Starks a half, an offseason and a training camp to recover from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his knee.
He was injured about midway through the Steelers' 29-23 loss at Denver in the Wild Card round of the 2011 Playoffs. Had surgery during the offseason, was signed by the Steelers despite not being able to participate in the team's training camp sessions in Latrobe and Tuesday, finally made his return to the first team.
It's a much different team than the one he left.
Opposite of him last year, Marcus Gilbert held down the right tackle position. He stays in place, but LG Willie Colon replaces Chris Kemoeatu, and RG David DeCastro replaces Ramon Foster and Doug Legursky.
Starks' return in Week 5 of the 2011 season propelled a sagging Steelers offense that, to that point, had scored an average of just under 18 points a game. It exploded for 38 points in a rout of visiting Tennessee, and QB Ben Roethlisberger, who had taken 13 sacks in the four games leading up to Week 5, was the AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
The Steelers were fortunate enough to not have to wait until Week 5 to fix problems they're seeing at left tackle. Last season, Jonathan Scott was surrendering constant pressure, leading to the Steelers signing Starks. This year, the combination of rookie Mike Adams and Gilbert at left tackle didn't exactly inspire confidence.
It was only a matter of time until Starks returned to the starting lineup, and now that he is, the Steelers will enter their third preseason game with their third starting offensive line combination.
This is the one that should stick, though. LT Starks, LG Colon, C Maurkice Pouncey, RG DeCastro and RT GIlbert.
Something went wrong if this isn't the lineup the Steelers put out on Sports Authority Field Sept. 9.