Shutdown Corner

Roethlisberger wears #78 in practice to honor released teammate

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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You'll see some odd things in practices — punters running routes to make up for roster holes, players with no idea where they're supposed to be at any given time, and collisions in all the wrong places -- but it isn't often that you see a Super Bowl quarterback wearing a jersey with a number in the high 70s. That did happen for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday, though, when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took the field at the Steelers' practice facility in Latrobe, Pa.

In honor of recently released offensive tackle Max Starks, who was cut on July 27 to free up over $5 million in cap space, Roethlisberger came out wearing one of Starks' old No. 78 jerseys that he had found in Starks' locker. Starks and Roethlisberger were the last two players left on the team from the Steelers' 2004 draft class — Roethlisberger was taken in the first round and Starks in the third — and the quarterback felt the loss of his veteran friend.

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"Max's locker was next to mine for seven-eight years now," he said. "So I saw [his jersey], I grabbed it and wore it in honor of Max."

As Starks stands 6-foot-8 and has weighed about 350 pounds through most his career, the jersey didn't quite fit. "It's his practice jersey. It's little big. It kept riding on my neck.

"Our lockers were next to each other. So we spent a lot of time together, everything from hearing him snore [during naps] to us complaining about things to just all the things we've gone through. [A] very good friend, good teammate and I'm not going to [rule] out the possibility that he might come back. Who knows?"

The Steelers selected Florida tackle Marcus Gilbert in the second round, and there's a possibility that Gilbert will see serious time in his rookie year. Or, the Steelers might bring Starks back at a lower cap number. Starks is also trying to drum up interest from the Arizona Cardinals, where he'd be familiar with former Steelers line coach and current Cards assistant head coach Russ Grimm.

However, before any of that happens, Starks may want to hit the elliptical pretty hard — according to veteran Steelers beat reporter Ed Bouchette, Starks is teetering in the high 300s, weight-wise.

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