"As of right now, it seems to be the fair assessment," said Starks.
In fact, Starks could remain at the position for a while.
According to published reports, Smith's back spasms were a bigger problem last week than Coach Mike Tomlin let on, and that Starks could earn his massive contract on the field this season.
Starks, of course, signed a one-year $6.9 million contract tender this season after he failed to strike a deal with any NFL team once the Steelers slapped a transition tag on him. It turned into a public relations disaster when Starks failed to make the starting lineup. But Starks played near-flawless ball last week in Cincinnati in place of Smith, and perhaps proved his worth to the team, if not the city. Not that Starks viewed it that way, though.
"If I viewed it like that then I wouldn't be focused on helping our team be successful," he said. "It's one of those things where a situation occurred and I took advantage of an opportunity and I'm glad I'm helping my team be successful. It's always good when you can put your hand in the pile and say you helped in making us get to the next phase. That's the only way I've ever approached it, as an opportunity to help my team."
Starks also said that he's not out to prove the coaching staff had been wrong in sending him to the bench once again to start the season.
"I'm just blessed to be playing football," he said. "It's not like I can point out, ‘Oh, I told you so,' because I had a big game or anything like that. I'm just blessed and fortunate to be here and it just so happens that now I get a chance to take all the work I've done out here on the practice field and show it on the main field on Sunday. It's kind of like a sigh of relief when you get that opportunity, because they are so far between and so precious. You never know when your last game will be. You never know when your career might end. You take every opportunity and you don't take them for granted. That's the way I've been approaching them."
As for Smith, Tomlin said publicly that he's not worried the injury will become a long-term problem.
"I'm really just following what the doctors are telling us and how he feels," Tomlin said. "I'm not in the frame of mind at this point where I'm viewing it as long term. We're living day to day with it and we'll see where he is tomorrow."
Pittsburgh reporters continued their decade-long infatuation with former Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress yesterday. Interview transcripts with Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning were filled with questions about Burress, who left the Steelers as a free agent following the 2004 season.
Roethlisberger called Burress "a friend and a great player" and feels he was misunderstood during his stay in Pittsburgh.
"No question," Roethlisberger said. "I always thought Plax was one of the best players we had and I always thought the fans gave him a short leash, if you will, and not really the fair end of the stick. He seems to be happy now and I'm happy for him."
But is Burress happy? He came off a one-game team suspension last week and made news Sunday after being called for pass interference, and then unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing the call. As he walked off the field, Giants Coach Tom Coughlin asked Burress what he was doing.
"Anything I (expletive) want to do," Burress reportedly told his coach.
Coughlin, a noted disciplinarian, was asked about dealing with Burress.
"On occasion there are issues," Coughlin said. "But I'm not going down that road, so you can move on to another question if you'd like."
After Coughlin was asked for a football cliché, the topic returned a question later. Coughlin was asked if he's worried how such open disrespect in front of his team could be tolerated. Coughlin laughed. "Geez," he said. "What's the next question?"
Along with Smith, missing practice for the Steelers on Wednesday was LB Keyaron Fox (hamstring). CB Bryant McFadden will miss at least two weeks with a broken forearm. CB Deshea Townsend and WR Hines Ward miss every Wednesday practice. DE Aaron Smith, DE Brett Keisel and RB Najeh Davenport missed because of personal reasons.