One-on-one with Max Starks

A recent national sports publication rated the Steelers' offseason as a D, at least in part because the team allowed right tackle Oliver Ross to leave with only second-year pro Max Starks to replace him.

But speaking with Starks this week in the final days of the Steelers' voluntary workouts, the massive lineman was more than confident in his ability to help the Steelers continue with their ground-pounding game plan in 2005.

Q: What kind of things can you learn out here without pads?

MS: You can learn everything out here, the plays, the reads, get offensive line cohesion and unity. It's really beneficial out here.

Q: Speaking of beneficial, how much so was that little bit of playing time you go last year on running downs?

MS: It makes all the difference when you're a 60 percent running team. I got a taste of going out there, playing at game speed, playing against great defensive players. That helped me a lot. I knew how to gauge myself. I know what to expect now during game time.

Q: You're pretty much one of the only new starters on this team this year. There's going to be a lot of scrutiny and a lot of emphasis put on you, are you ready for that?

MS: It's nothing I haven't dealt with before. I've dealt with adversity since high school. It's nothing new. I welcome the challenge because it makes me better.

Q: With the way that this team runs the ball – coming out of school, you were considered a stronger pass blocker than run blocker – but the coaches were ecstatic about your run blocking last year. Nobody's questioning your run blocking any more, are they?

MS: No. They're pleased with what I did and that's what's giving me the opportunity to play this year.

Q: Would you say you're very confident in your abilities to get the job done?

MS: I definitely feel confident about going in there and picking up from where the guys in front of me left off last year and trying to make an impact on this team and help us win some games.

Q: What do you think the biggest thing you need to improve on is?

MS: For me, I'd say reading the defenses. That's something you have to know – when the safeties are down, when the linebackers are shifting and where the defensive linemen are going. You have to be able to see those changes and make the defensive reads. I have to watch the safeties and corners and kind of shadow the linebackers.

Q: Is it a big difference from the right side to the left?

MS: Not really. I played both sides last year. In college, I played both sides of the line as a starter from my sophomore year on. It's nothing new. It's something where I want to get out there where I fit in with the team.

Q: Had you not had the injury in your senior year, would there have been any questions about you coming out in the draft last year?

MS: No. And the thing was, the injury really didn't keep me from playing. The only game I missed in my entire college career was because I had four wisdom teeth pulled. I played every single game. That's not a question.

Q: You're just a gamer.

MS: Hey, you've got to make the plays when it counts.

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