Notebook: Starks takes new job seriously

PITTSBURGH – The Steelers brought veteran free-agent tackle Scott Gragg in for a physical late last week, and director of football operations said the Steelers' interest is in "wait and see" mode.

If the Steelers were waiting to see what second-year tackle Max Starks would look like upon his arrival, the Steelers will pass on Gragg.

Starks, who's been elevated to the first team after only a handful of rookie snaps, is in great shape. The 6-foot-8 right tackle weighs 347 pounds, up 10 pounds from last year, but said he has five percent less body fat.

"I spent the entire six weeks training hard in Arizona and getting ready for the season," he said.

Starks is the son of former NFL defensive end Ross Browner. He's also dating the daughter of former Steelers defensive end Dwight White. Starks said neither of the men is responsible for his conditioning.

"It was the same thing in college," he said. "I was a back-up my first year. I had the opportunity to start at right tackle my sophomore year, so I knew the level of detail and attention to it that needed to be taken because this is a very, very great opportunity for me and I don't want to pass that opportunity up."

LEAN AND MEAN II

Nose tackle Casey Hampton also reported to camp in great shape but as usual wouldn't give his weight. He did say he's ready for today's run test.

"I'm not going to (sit out) anything," said Hampton.

Since he's entering the last year of his contract, Hampton was asked if he considered holding out like Hines Ward. Hampton just shook his head.

"I've got a lot to prove coming back from the injury," he said. Hampton, of course, missed 10 games last season after tearing his ACL. He was ably replaced by Chris Hoke, but doesn't expect to lose his job at nose tackle.

"I went through mini-camp playing with the first team," he said. "I don't see why that would change. But it's nice to know I can come out for a (rest) and Chris can step in."

Hoke not only signed a new contract during the off-season, he also had a baby two weeks ago, when his wife Jaimee gave birth to the couple's first daughter, Chloee.

ANOTHER NOTE FROM VERRON

Back-up running back Verron Haynes came to camp last year wearing a T-shirt that said: "Give me the ball and I'll take it."

This year, Haynes wore a shirt with another message. On the front was "Free Agent." On the back were the words: "Just forget about the salary cap."

Haynes is entering the last year of his contract and will be up for free agency. He said it's indeed a message.

"Subliminally," Haynes said. "I saw the shirt and I had to buy it."

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL

As one of several starters heading into the final season of his contract, safety Chris Hope is in the same position as Ward, Hampton and Antwaan Randle El. It's a money year.

"You've got a guy like Hines, who has done the things he's done and he still doesn't get a contract. That shows you how big every year is," Hope said.

"It makes it easier to swallow when you see that a guy like Hines isn't getting paid. But at the same time, everybody's got to look out for themselves. I can't expect to get paid what Hines does, but at the same time, I can't take a back seat, either. It's part of business. Unfortunately, the money causes problems."


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