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Starks uncertain of future with Steelers

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Alex Marvez

Alex Marvez is a Senior NFL Writer for FOXSports.com. He has covered the NFL for the past 18 seasons as a beat writer and is the former president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He also is a frequent host on Sirius XM NFL Radio.

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MARCO ISLAND, Fla.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a holding pattern with their starting left tackle.

Speaking with me and co-host Jim Miller on Sirius XM NFL Radio, Max Starks said Friday that he isn’t expecting to talk about a new contract with the Steelers until he makes more strides in recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Injured in a first-round playoff loss to Denver, Starks plans to run for Steelers brass in June to give the team an indication of his health.

“There has been expressed interest but it all stems from my ACL recovery,” Starks said while attending the NFL Players Association meeting in Marco Island, Fla. “I’ll be back there to do an evaluation with the doctors and coaches and talk to them.

“It’s my intent that I have the opportunity to go back there, but I know the reality is I’m not going to get a legitimate look until June for my knee when I can actually run off the ACL injury. That will really determine what team I go to.”

Starks, 30, already is able to walk up and down stairs without crutches or noticeable difficulty. The 6-foot-8, 345-pound Starks also is much slimmer and more muscular than last spring when his weight ballooned following neck surgery.

A combination of salary and injury concerns led the Steelers to release Starks during the 2011 offseason. Starks was re-signed during the season and became an immediate starter for Pittsburgh’s final 13 games.

Although he left the door open for signing elsewhere, Starks still refers to his fellow Steelers offensive linemen as “us” and “ours.” Starks laughed when questioned about that.

“That’s been my whole entire career,” said Starks, who has spent all eight of his NFL seasons in Pittsburgh. “That’s all I know.”

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If Starks signs elsewhere, the Steelers are prepared to name Marcus Gilbert as his replacement. Gilbert started 14 games as a rookie right tackle in 2011. Willie Colon, who has missed almost two entire seasons because of injuries, it set to retake that spot in 2012.

Asked whether Gilbert is ready to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s blindside, Starks said, “I think after this year he’s had the opportunity to mature into the NFL. That’s one of the biggest things when you’re a rookie. You’re given all of this information and it’s like a floodgate opening up in front of you.

“Admittedly, he had some issues early on transitioning and learning what it was to be a professional athlete. But he has all the capabilities and ability to do that. He’s a very talented athlete and has the skill set that you want at left tackle. He’s athletic, he has long arms and he’s a physical player. I think the biggest thing was he got inundated with too much information (early last season) and then got thrown into the fire.”

Starks was a starter for the Steelers teams that won Super Bowls XL and XLIII. He has 80 regular-season starts as well.

Tagged: Max Starks, Steelers, Marcus Gilbert

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