Starks signs $6.9 million tender contract with Steelers

Steelers tackle Max Starks cleared up any uncertainty about his feelings about playing for the Steelers in 2008 by signing his transition tender.

Starks, 26, was given the transition tender because the Steelers, who lost Alan Faneca to free agency, didn't want to suffer too big a loss on the offensive line. A year ago, center Jeff Hartings retired. Even though Starks didn't finish the season as the starter, the Steelers felt he was too valuable to lose.

"It's great to have Max Starks back because he is a starter-capable guy," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "For my standpoint, that's the most important thing, to get some guys who are starter-capable and let them go to [training camp] and compete for positions because competition is what makes us all better."

As a transition player, Starks had the ability to sign with another team and give the Steelers a chance to match. By signing the tender, Starks will be with the team this year unless he is traded. Starks signed a one-year, $6.895 million contract.

Starks missed the end of the 2007 regular season and postseason after suffering damage to the meniscus cartilage in his right knee and requring surgery.

Starks started four games in place of tackle Marvel Smith in 2007. The four-year veteran was the starting right tackle for two years, but lost his job to second-year pro Willie Colon in training camp.

John Clayton is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Information from ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press was used in this report.