Back to the Future

SCI's Mike Prisuta talks to Max Starks about the simplicity and explosiveness of the Steelers' new offense.

When last season started in Baltimore, Max Starks was watching in a sports bar in Arizona.

When this season commences in Denver, Starks will be starting at left tackle.

From Starks' perspective, this would be the preferable way to open an NFL campaign.

"I watched Steelers-Baltimore at 10 a.m., sitting at the bar and couldn't drink alcohol," he recalled. "It was a little awkward."

Better still is the new offense Starks gets to help execute now that Bruce Arians will be watching the Indianapolis opener from a sideline in Chicago.

"I'm ready to get after it and go," Starks continued. "This is probably the simplest (the offense has) ever been. It's just ready to rock & roll. I like the type of offense we have. I feel comfortable with the terminology. The chemistry is working well on the offensive side. I'm really excited and really anxious to get ready for the season."

"Simple" or some derivation thereof wasn't part of most initial descriptions of what Todd Haley brought to Pittsburgh in Arians' wake, particularly those offered up by Ben Roethlisberger. But once the shock wore off, the Steelers started to ponder the possibilities.

Now that they've done that and put the Haley theories into practice throughout the preseason, those possibilities are much more intoxicating than they had been daunting.

"I think it's really going to come down to the execution of the plays and the versatility that we use and we've shown so far this preseason," Starks maintained. "Being able to stay consistent with that and not get predictable, I think, will allow us to really be an elite team.

"The re-introduction of the running back into it and possibly being almost 50-50 (in run-pass ratio) and having a balanced offense, I think, is probably one of the things that will play heavily into out favor.

"I should say the re-introduction of the fullback because we didn't have those for a number of years. But yeah, we've had a run game and we had some good ones. But we did a lot of sub-play (sub-package) running more so than out of regular formations. Having that balance on first-and-10, not getting overly predictable, that teams actually have to guess what we're going to run, makes things a lot tougher on the opposing defense."

The expectation last year was that the Steelers would eventually evolve into an offense capable of matching the runaway-train devastation of a New England, a New Orleans or a Green Bay.

The goal this year is to control rather than explode, to inflict their will rather than consistently flash their skill.

This offense likewise expects to dominate, but in more of a Steelers-like mode.

"I think the biggest thing is we'll be more ball-controlling," Starks predicted. "Whether the situation calls for us to score 38 points, I think we'll have that capability. But if it also was to score 10 points, as long as we score more than the opposition offense we'll always be good and I think we'll have the capability of being that type of offense."

Think the 2005 Steelers on Adderall.

"There is a glimpse of that," Starks said, referencing the philosophy rather than the pharmaceutical. "But I think we'll be a little more prolific than that. We did run the crap out of the ball back in '04 and '05 but we'll also have a nice air attack, as well.

"It won't quite be '05 but it will have some '05 semblances. And we'll be able to take the seven-step, 10-yard dropback passes and actually be able to burn them downfield, as well."

That has a chance to be pretty entertaining.

Even at 10 a.m., before the bar has opened in Arizona.


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