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Old 02-07-2009, 12:05 AM   #1
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Default Steelers' Starks has paid his dues

Harris: Steelers' Starks has paid his dues
Buzz up!
Saturday, February 7, 2009

John Harris is a sports columnist for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached via e-mail or at 412-481-5432.

The worst thing about the Steelers winning Super Bowl XLIII is that their players are likely to be more in demand from other teams looking to sign them as free agents.

There's a very real possibility that either starting left tackle Max Starks or Marvel Smith, who Starks replaced because of injury, may not return in 2009.

It also is possible that both players - who are unrestricted free agents - will bolt.

Starks recently turned 27, making him the only young free-agent offensive lineman currently on the market to win two Super Bowls.

Show Starks the money.

Starks played under a one-year, $6.9-million contract he received as a transition player. He's been a starter on two Super Bowl championship teams - one at left tackle, one at right tackle.

Left tackles protect the quarterback's blind side and are paid more than right tackles. Starks was moved from the right side when Smith suffered a back injury in the fifth game of the season.

Over the past two seasons, multi-year contracts awarded to all offensive linemen averaged $6.5 million a season. Left tackles averaged $7.7 million, right tackles $6.0 million.

Smith, 30, has injury issues, but he's played left tackle his entire career.

Starks probably never will be as highly sought after as he is right now. Even if he doesn't receive the break-the-bank deal he desires from another team, it's unlikely that Starks will return to the Steelers unless they offer him big bucks up front to stay.

The Steelers have until Feb. 27 to re-sign their key unrestricted free agents. It's a lengthy list that includes starting cornerback Bryant McFadden, starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu and third receiver Nate Washington. Smith and Starks are the team's only unsigned left tackles.

Smith has undergone two back surgeries a year apart that caused him to miss 19 games over the past two seasons (including the playoffs). The Steelers placed him on injured reserve in December, making him ineligible for Super Bowl XLIII.

"I'm pretty much back to normal,'' said Smith, a native of Oakland, Calif., who could be a potential free-agent target of the hometown Raiders or the Arizona Cardinals, where former Steelers assistant Russ Grimm is the offensive line coach.

"It's amazing how my rehab and recovery have gone compared to last time. The best thing is they didn't touch anything structurally. I feel like I'm about 2-3 months ahead from last year going through the same process.

"If I could stay here, I would. It's up to them. They know me personally and as a player - my work ethic, what I bring to the table. Physically, they know the aspects of all my rehab, everything I'm doing. If I've got to go anywhere (else), do a workout or physical, I'll be perfectly fine. I don't see that being an issue at all.''
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Old 02-07-2009, 02:12 AM   #2

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Default Re: Steelers' Starks has paid his dues

I think we need to keep one of the LTs or sign Jordan Gross. We're unlikely to get an OT who can start right away through the draft and we really can't afford to have Trai Essex out there.
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Old 02-07-2009, 11:02 PM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers' Starks has paid his dues

Well he certainly got paid for his dues last season.
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Old 02-08-2009, 01:06 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers' Starks has paid his dues

I hope Arizona shows Starks the money.....just like Oliver Ross!!
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