Pittsburgh (AP)—Seven days ago, Max Starks was wondering if he’d ever play
in the NFL again. A week later, he was back in a familiar spot, giving Ben Roethlisberger time to do his thing.
Starks received the game ball from Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin after the
Steelers rolled over the Tennessee Titans 38-17 on Sunday. Not bad for a guy who
hadn’t played a game in nearly a year.
“He stepped up,” Roethlisberger said after tying a career high with five
touchdown passes. “We brought him to town this week … and it’s like ‘OK,
let’s see how we’re going to use him.”’
Turns out even more than Starks or the Steelers thought.
A knee injury to center Maurkice Pouncey and a shoulder injury to tackle Marcus Gilbert
turned Starks’ part-time debut into a full-time gig. He played
nearly every snap in his first action since hurting his neck last November.
The injury appeared to put his career in jeopardy. The team cut him after
seven seasons before training camp as a cost-cutting measure. Starks spent two
months getting back into shape and waiting for a call. When it came from the
Steelers (3-2), he didn’t let it go to waste.
Starks practiced all of three days before starting at left tackle. He then
helped Pittsburgh’s running game get going—reserves Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman combined for 156 yards in relief of injured starter Rashard Mendenhall —
while holding the Titans (3-2) to just one sack.
“Our biggest goal was to keep (Roethlisberger) upright,” Starks said.
“And we knew he’d perform if we did that.”