As has been discussed on BTSC already, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been implicated as contestants in the Jake Long sweepstakes; most recently by ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Just before OT Jake Long agreed to a four-year deal worth up to $36 million with Rams, Steelers made a play to try to get him to Pittsburgh.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 18, 2013
Long is arguably the best left tackle in the NFL. Any team needing a quality starter at the position would certainly have coveted his services. So, why were the Steelers after him?
Max Starks was the starter at LT for Pittsburgh in 2012. He has been an active member of the Steelers offensive line, playing both tackle positions, during his entire career. While Starks' stay has been a tumultuous one, the team could not separate itself from him; often re-signing him at the open of a new season.
After a disappointing non-playoff season in 2012, Starks most recent contract expired and he became an unrestricted free-agent. Many have wondered if the team would bring him back again this season, however the team has remained adamant on Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert being the starting tackles in 2013, after the team secured each in the second round of the NFL draft - 2011 for Gilbert and 2012 for Adams.
However, if the team was so confident in their accrued youth, then why the need to go after Jake Long.
Of course, no one has been able to report exactly how much Pittsburgh offered Long, but the fact they went after him at all places new question marks over an already uncertain situation. Obviously, if the team felt they need a proven left tackle, they would turn to Starks after being unable to land long. Right?
Wrong. Starks has already faded into distant memory. His name is only being associated with the Steelers as a passing mention, like in Gerry Dulac's report from yesterday While his report was more specifically about Tomlin's comments from the owner's meetings, he did manage to repeat what the team has been not saying since the end of last season - the Steelers are not expected to re-sign Starks or Casey Hampton. His report comes after the team missed on Long.
Perhaps the team will change its mind before the season starts, but as for now Starks is not expected to receive so much as a phone call from Pittsburgh, let alone a new contract offer. Starks was asked about his situation following the close of 2012, and he declared a desire to continue to start and play for starter money - even if it meant with a new team in free-agency.
The excitement of free-agency has come and gone without a single mention of Starks name being linked to another team. While the Steelers may still offer him a minimum deal by the beginning of the season, it looks more plausible to be the end of Starks career unless another team suddenly decides to show interest in him. Starks drew little interest the last time he was an unrestricted free-agent. Now, he is even older.
Maybe a team will find itself needing depth because of injury, and Starks phone will begin to ring. However, he should not expect the call to come from Pittsburgh. As the bridge-burning continues in the city of Three Rivers, Starks's has been incinerated to the foundation. An unfortunate situation considering the Steelers have little depth behind Adams and Gilbert.
Colon, the team's former right tackle, is no longer on the roster. Ramon Foster, who used to be considered an emergency tackle, is now the full-time starter at Colon's 2012 position of left guard. Kelvin Beachum played right tackle after Adams and Gilbert both fell to injury through the end of last season, after being a seventh-round draft pick prior to the beginning of the year.
The only other tackle on the roster is Joe Long, brother of the contested Jake Long. Perhaps the team used him as an incentive for brother Jake to join Pittsburgh, but now they will have to rely on Joe to be a backup, unless they are going to address the position in the draft, yet again.
While Starks never held the greatest of relationships with Pittsburgh, his contributions to their success are undeniable. If the team's new line configuration begins to struggle early in training camp, expect to find Ben Roethlisberger practicing in his Starks jersey one more time.