The move means that the team will have the right to match any offer Starks, a four-year veteran, may get from another team when the free agent signing period begins Feb. 29. But, should the Steelers not sign the 6-foot-8, 345-pound Starks to a new deal before the season begins, he would be due a salary that is the average of the top 10 tackles in the NFL.
The Steelers' tagging of Starks means that negotiations with Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca, who is also set to become an unrestricted free agent, have likely gone nowhere and the team is beginning to look at life without its 1998 No. 1 draft pick.
If the Steelers re-sign Starks or he chooses to sign his one-year tender, he might move back into the starting lineup at right tackle, with Colon possibly shifting to guard to help ease the loss of Faneca.
Bringing back Starks, a third-round pick in 2004, would also give the Steelers insurance for left tackle Marvel Smith, who had surgery in December to fix a bulging disc in his back.