Max Starks planned on spending a football-free weekend at Churchill Downs with his stylish tan fedora hat perched on top of his head and enjoying his first Kentucky Derby.

Well, the football-free part of the weekend didn't actually go as planned.

Starks had a “couple of conversations” over the weekend with a few NFL organizations, including a brief telephone conversation with the Steelers, and is anticipating getting a deal done with a team before organized team activities kick off around the league in two weeks.

One thing has become clear to Starks over the past couple days: He won't return for a 10th season with the Steelers.

When the Steelers added veteran tackle Guy Whimper on Monday, it signified the end of Starks' time with the Steelers, or that's how Starks viewed it.

“Let me say this, (Starks and the Steelers) had a conversation prior (to the Whimper signing), and that decision (to sign Whimper) was made after our conversation,” Starks said.

“Now it wasn't said directly to me, but you kind of take that as an indication of what they are thinking. It is not so much on my part as more of them wanting to move on.”

Unlike the two previous times the Steelers appeared to part ways with Starks — right before training camp in 2011 and again following the season that year — this one likely will stick for a couple of reasons.

• The Steelers are comfortable and feel the need to move forward with recent consecutive-year second-round picks Marcus Gilbert and Mike Adams at both tackle spots.

• Unlike years past, Starks isn't coming off an injury, making him a valuable commodity.

“(The Steelers) feel that age is the greatest indicator,” Starks said. “Of course, I don't believe that.”

The best-case scenario for the Steelers always was to sign Starks to provide depth and experience at a position where it is greatly needed.

After the starting five offensive linemen, the Steelers' 10 backups on the 90-man roster have 27 career starts with 22 of them coming from Whimper. Seven of the 10 backups are either rookies or first-year guys with all of them being undrafted.

At 31 and feeling “the best I've felt over the past five years,” Starks doesn't view himself as a backup.

“After playing 100 percent of the snaps the previous year, I don't think I am, at this point, ready to be a backup swing tackle guy just yet,” Starks said. “I have proven over the past couple years that I am still starter-capable.”