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Dependable Starks prepares for next test

| Friday, Nov. 6, 2009

Max Starks has stated numerous times over his career that he would hate to face teammate James Harrison in a game.

Well, what about a James Harrison clone?

Denver linebacker Elvis Dumervil, a converted defensive end, is as close as the NFL has to offer as a twin to the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in stature and production.

The 5-foot-11, 248-pound Dumervil is an inch smaller than Harrison and six pounds heavier. This season, Dumervil has two more sacks than Harrison's eight.

To most left tackles in the league, going up against a guy such as Dumervil on Monday Night Football would be overwhelming, but not to Starks.

That's because Starks has one big advantage over Dumervil, and it has nothing to do with the eight inches and nearly 100 pounds he holds over him.

Starks' advantage is Harrison.

Ever since he took over the starting left tackle job six games into last season, Starks has practiced against Harrison every day.

That's every day last year, every day during offseason workouts, every day during a month of training camp this year and every day this season.

Starks has definitely learned tricks on how to deal with a diminutive but powerful guy who likes to get after the quarterback.

"The good news is that I have the opportunity to go up against a James Harrison every day in practice," Starks said. "It is not that big of a difference. If we hadn't had somebody like him and I was going up against a 6-5 guy ... that would be a lot tougher."

What Dumervil does do is use his speed to his advantage. But, according to former Louisville teammate William Gay, you can't ignore his power and strength either.

"Sure he has the speed to get to the outside," Gay said. "What people don't know about him is that he is strong. In college, he used to outlift the offensive linemen."

Dumervil has abused tackles this year. He has multiple sacks in four of Denver's seven games but has been shut out in the other three, including last week against Baltimore tackles Jared Gaither and Michael Oher.

"He is a great pass rusher," Starks said.

But Starks hasn't been a slouch, either. He has been pretty formidable in stopping the opposition's top pass rusher this year.

Starks, who has started at left tackle in the Steelers' past 21 games, including the postseason, has gone up against the likes of Tennessee's Kyle Vanden Bosch, Chicago's Alex Brown, Cincinnati's Antwan Odom, San Diego's Shawne Merriman, Detroit's Julian Peterson and Minnesota's Jared Allen. Starks has been nearly flawless.

"He has done a good job," fellow tackle Willie Colon said. "He has stepped up to the plate against a lot of good guys. Max has kind of had a knack for stepping up to the big challenges."

Dumervil is next up for Starks and might be his stiffest challenge yet. However, Starks sees it as just another day at the office.

"Elvis Dumervil wants to make his stats look good and wants to hurt my quarterback," Starks said. "I will make sure I do my best not to allow that to happen."

Starks has done that fairly well. Yes, he is responsible for 4 1/2 sacks of Ben Roethlisberger this year, but Brown was the only one out of the "Big Six" who recorded one.

The other 3 1/2 sacks came from other defenders, and all were coverage sacks in which Roethlisberger had an average of more than 5 seconds to get rid of the ball.

"I really don't look at personal stats unless I mess up," Starks said. "I look forward to competing. It doesn't matter who the guy is. You want to prove who is better, and that is the main driving force for myself."

Additional Information:

Taking it to the Max

Through seven games, Max Starks has allowed 4 1/2 sacks, but Roethlisberger took more than 5 seconds on average to throw the ball.

Opponent Performance

Tennessee - Allowed half sack to Jacob Ford (4.1 seconds)

Chicago - Allowed sack to Alex Brown (3.5 seconds)

Cincinnati - Allowed no sacks

San Diego - Allowed sack to Larry English (6.5 seconds)

Detroit - Allowed sack to Julian Peterson (5.2 seconds)

Cleveland - Allowed sack to Jason Trusnick (6.1 seconds)

Minnesota - Allowed no sacks

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