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fordfixer
10-04-2008, 12:42 AM
Stapleton next up for the Steelers


By Mike Bires, Times Sports Staff
Published: Saturday, October 4, 2008 12:37 AM EDT
http://www.timesonline.com/articles/200 ... 164114.txt (http://www.timesonline.com/articles/2008/10/03/sports/steelers/doc48e6f2e8acaf1660164114.txt)

PITTSBURGH — The state of the Steelers’ offensive line isn’t quite chaotic. Perhaps a better description is muddled.

Virtual unknown Darnell Stapleton is expected to start at right guard Sunday night at Jacksonville while $7 million man Max Starks probably won’t play a down at tackle unless the injury bug bites again.

“I accept the challenge,” Stapleton said.

Due to the season-ending injury to Kendall Simmons — he ruptured his Achilles tendon in Monday’s win over the Ravens — a beleaguered O-line needs a new cog.

In all likelihood, that will be Stapleton. Trai Essex, a backup tackle who also can play guard, is ready in the event Stapleton struggles when the Steelers (3-1) play the Jaguars (2-2).

“Darnell has a more recent history at the position in terms of practice. Trai’s been concentrating more on tackle,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “We haven’t made a final decision there. We really don’t have to until Sunday night.”

Stapleton, 23, is an interesting prospect. He made the team last year as an undrafted free agent despite missing several weeks of training camp after arthroscopic knee surgery.

When camp started last year, the Steelers had two rookie linemen from Rutgers — Stapleton, who played center for the Scarlet Knights, and Cameron Stephenson, a guard chosen in the fifth round.

It was Stapleton who made the final cut.

“I guess they saw something in me that they liked,” Stapleton said.

Last year, Stapleton didn’t play. He never even dressed.

But Monday night when Simmons went down late in the second quarter against Baltimore, he finally got his chance.

It was probably a coincidence, but in the first half, the Steelers only had 46 yards of total offense, scored no touchdowns and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked three times. After halftime with Stapleton at guard, the Steelers had 191 yards of offense, scored two TDs and Roethlisberger wasn’t sacked once.

This week in the locker room as the media swarmed around Stapleton’s locker, teammates yelled out, “Game changer! Game changer!”

Essex, who hasn’t dressed the past three games, will get his chance if Stapleton struggles.

There’s even a chance the Steelers may move Willie Colon to guard and put Starks back at right tackle. After all, doesn’t it make sense to play the team’s highest-paid offensive lineman at some point this season?

“Anything to help the team out,” Colon said.

Shawn
10-04-2008, 02:22 AM
Can Stapleton be worse than Simmons? Wow...I certainly hope not. I have heard good things about Stapleton and Essex coming out of camp so I really think we can find an improvement at the position with either.

stlrz d
10-04-2008, 09:55 AM
I thought he played well against the Ravens and have confidence he'll play well against the Jags too. Rutgers ran a ZBS and I believe that gives him an advantage.

buckeyehoppy
10-04-2008, 04:44 PM
I thought he played well against the Ravens and have confidence he'll play well against the Jags too. Rutgers ran a ZBS and I believe that gives him an advantage.

Maybe he just understood the ZBS better than Stephenson.

It seems to me that Stapleton just has a very good understanding of how an OL works in the first place. When I went to camp, I came away more impressed with him than the rest of the OL because of the way he practiced. He was very precise with what he did nearly all the time.

He also confounds the bigger-is-better theory of guys in the trenches. Having a big guy might be nice, but unless he also has above average speed for his size and can use leverage effectively he's not going to be much use anyway. Stapleton has good speed even for his "diminutive" size and his footwork is also noteworthy in that he doesn't get knocked off his base too much at all.

Stapleton is also a hard worker. That's why I am in this guy's corner because it is apparent that he "gets it". Here's hoping that he continues to make progress.

Rickt011
10-04-2008, 09:22 PM
If he turns out to be the real deal then great! Lets hope we get a solid game from him tomorrow night. Simmons has been our worst OL starter for some time. I really would like to see WC moved to guard. RT can be handled by Max, WC has had a rough year at tackle so far.

RuthlessBurgher
10-05-2008, 10:38 AM
You gotta wonder about a guy that has an autograph signing at a strip club. :lol:

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SteelTorch
10-05-2008, 11:20 AM
If Stapleton does well enough, I say just put Starks at RT and bench Colon's a.ss. The man is practically garbage at right tackle anyway. Can Starks really be any worse?

And I mean this when I say we won't miss Simmons, except maybe for depth. :wink:

BigBen2112
10-05-2008, 11:23 AM
If Stapleton does well enough, I say just put Starks at RT and bench Colon's a.ss. The man is practically garbage at right tackle anyway. Can Starks really be any worse?

And I mean this when I say we won't miss Simmons, except maybe for depth. :wink:

How many more years do we have on his 24 million dollar contract?!

pittpete
10-05-2008, 07:52 PM
Stapleton did a servicable job when dopey went down last week.
Colon is a bum at RT.
I rewatched the Jags playoff game and thought Essex did a great job to finish the game.
Whats with the coaching staff?
Starks gets starter $$$$ and doesnt see a down, we have a guard playing tackle, our only backup center starting and Trai rides the pine.
Dont even get me strated on our #2 draft pick not even dressing.
3-1 record, but Im pulling my hair out :wft

frankthetank1
10-06-2008, 09:02 AM
colon has had a bad season so far, but im not sure starks would be any better. colon was decent last year, hope he turns it around