Pittsburgh Steelers: Max Starks

Upon Further Review: Steelers Week 6

October, 14, 2013
A review of four hot items from the Pittsburgh Steelers' 19-6 win over the New York Jets.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
AP Photo/Kathy WillensThe Pittsburgh defense on Sunday made life miserable for Jets quarterback Geno Smith.
Statement game: The Steelers’ defense made a stand after an atrocious showing in a 34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 29. The Steelers allowed their fewest points in a road game since 2008 (Washington), according to ESPN Stats & Information. They also showed how effective they can be when they force teams to play from behind -- when it comes to the sticks or the scoreboard. The Steelers didn’t allow the Jets to convert one time on a third down when New York needed at least 6 yards to move the chains. Two of the Steelers’ three sacks came on those third downs, and Geno Smith threw both of his interceptions when the Jets trailed by double digits. “Finally we got a lead to play with,” defensive end Brett Keisel said, “and we can do good things when teams are forced to throw the ball.”

LT still in flux: What is next for the Steelers at left tackle if Levi Brown is lost for the rest of the season with a torn right triceps? Kelvin Beachum played admirably Sunday as he settled down after a shaky start, but he is probably better suited for the interior of the line and is not a long-term fix at left tackle. If the Steelers need a stopgap while Beachum fills in until the coaches are ready to give Mike Adams another shot at left tackle, Max Starks is among the veteran offensive tackles who are unsigned. The Steelers brought back Starks in October 2011 after they cut ties with the two-time Super Bowl winner, so there is certainly precedence there.

A steady hand: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger impressed coach Mike Tomlin with his command of the game as much as his pinpoint passing. “He did a great job of communicating,” Tomlin said. “Sometimes in hostile environments that becomes difficult.” Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley did not have any communication issues even though the former initially disagreed with what turned into the call of the game. On third-and-1 from the Steelers’ 45-yard line early in the third quarter, Roethlisberger thought the Steelers would try to run for the first down. Haley called for a play-action pass and Roethlisberger hit a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders for a 55-yard touchdown. “That was a great call on his part,” Roethlisberger said of Haley. “I was a little hesitant at first. After we broke the huddle I thought that this was a good play call.”

Getting his kicks: The Steelers would have blown the Jets out had they been able to finish more drives. But what a weapon Shaun Suisham has become when the Steelers have to settle for field goals. The ninth-year veteran banged home four of them Sunday, including a pair from beyond 45 yards. Suisham has made 42 of his last 43 attempts inside of 50 yards. He has also made a personal-best 17 consecutive field goal attempts between 40 and 49 yards.

Steelers roll dice with Levi Brown

October, 2, 2013

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers' trade for offensive tackle Levi Brown, assuming he passes a physical Thursday in Pittsburgh, will ultimately be remembered as the change of scenery the former Penn State star desperately needed.

Or a sign of how desperate the Steelers were for help along their offensive line following the team’s first 0-4 start since 1968.

There is little to suggest, other than pedigree, that the Steelers have found an answer at left tackle where Mike Adams has been a disaster.

Brown has started 79 of 81 career games in Arizona but the Cardinals were willing to give up a player they once invested the fifth overall draft pick in for a conditional draft pick for a reason.

Brown had become such a target for fan criticism that those who routinely bash the seventh-year veteran probably pooled their money to buy Brown’s plane ticket out of Arizona.

The Cardinals’ asking price was low enough that it made sense for the Steelers to acquire a former first-round draft pick who never lived up to expectations -- just as they did with running back Felix Jones in late August.

The alternative in past years when there have been injuries or ineffectiveness at left tackle is to turn to Max Starks.

But Starks is 31, didn’t make it out of the preseason with the San Diego Chargers and was recently released by the St. Louis Rams.

The Steelers have finally moved on from the player who bailed them out at left tackle several times. And they have to hope they have the same kind of success with Brown that they had with Starks.

Coach Mike Tomlin wouldn’t talk about what role Brown will play in Pittsburgh since the trade is not yet official. Tomlin did admit that left tackle has been an issue, and that’s at least a start to fixing the Steelers' problems along the offensive line.

“We’ve gotten below-the-line work and that’s the reality of it,” Tomlin said. “It needs to be above the line and we’ll turn over any stone in order for that to happen.”