Notebook: Starks remains upbeat about inactivity

| Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Max Starks is still the team's third offensive tackle even though he was passed over Sunday night when Marvel Smith left the game with cramps.

Tomlin inserted Trai Essex at left tackle instead of Starks. This despite Starks starting four games in place of the injured Smith last season.

Tomlin said he went with Essex at left tackle because he thought it would be a better match-up for the Steelers because the Jaguars' defensive ends rely more on speed than size.

"That's what he said?" Starks said. "That was his decision."

Starks, who started at right tackle when the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, has been a reserve the past two seasons. He has been diplomatic when asked about his situation, and he stayed that course Tuesday.

"My best way of doing this is to just keep staying positive and keep working hard out there and hopefully getting our defense ready for games," the 6-foot-8, 345-pound Starks said. "I feel like they just have better chemistry with the guys who are in there versus having me in there, so I just trust their decision."

Starks signed a one-year, $6.9 million tender offer that the Steelers made to him last February. The Steelers, he said, never offered him a long-term contract extension.

It doesn't appear the fifth-year veteran is in the Steelers' future plans -- or their immediate ones.

"I'm blessed to be making the money that I am," Starks said. "Am I happy the way that I am making it• No. What else can you do• I prepare every day and wait for that opportunity.

Keisel returns

What Tomlin called the liveliest legs in practice yesterday morning also were among the unlikeliest ones.

They belonged to starting defensive end Brett Keisel, who hasn't played since the Steelers' Sept. 14 game at Cleveland because of a strained calf.

Keisel said he will play against the Bengals on Oct. 19. That he practiced yesterday even though the Steelers have a bye this week showed just how eager he has been to get back on the playing field.

"He was a live wire out there," Tomlin said.

Keisel said he could have played this week if the Steelers would have had a game.

"It feels great to back out there with my teammates and test it a little bit," Keisel said of his injured right leg. "I'll be hunting Bengals next week."

Extra points

Tomlin said Darnell Stapleton solidified his hold on the starting job at right guard with his play in the Steelers' 26-21 win over the Jaguars. "He really did well," Tomlin said of the second-year player. "We'll continue to move forward with him in that spot." ... The Steelers signed linebacker Patrick Bailey to their practice squad. Bailey has played in two games this season, but the Steelers released him last Saturday to make room for defensive tackle Scott Paxson on the 53-man roster. ... The Steelers will hold their second and final practice of the week today at their South Side facility.

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