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lamberts-lost-tooth
10-11-2008, 12:09 PM
Stapleton steps in nicely for Simmons
By John Grupp
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, October 10, 2008

By any standard, Steelers right guard Darnell Stapleton is undersized for an NFL offensive linemen.

Even coach Mike Tomlin called him "short" after his first pro start.

But the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Stapleton is tall enough to see where he stands.

"I'm not as heavy as most guards, and I may not be 6-6 or 6-5," Stapleton said, "but I think I'm smart enough to play the position, and I've got the will and the heart."

Stapleton, 23, has emerged from nominal obscurity as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers to become a starting right guard for the first-place Steelers.

"He's pretty athletic, and he's physical," starting left guard Chris Kemoeatu said. "He's a smart guy, and he stepped up and did a good job."

Stapleton, who made his first NFL start in the nationally televised, 26-21 victory last Sunday at Jacksonville, is expected to be in the lineup in place of injured Kendall Simmons when the Steelers travel to the Bengals on Oct. 19.

"This is no big surprise," said Steelers offensive line coach Larry Zierlein, who first spotted Stapleton on a video of the Texas Bowl college all-star game. "We have known this kid can play."

Said Tomlin: "Darnell is not small; he's short. He played with great leverage. He had an opportunity, and he delivered."

As for Stapleton's stature, he's smaller than most of the 64 first-string offensive guards in the league.

A handful of them are shorter than Stapleton, and a half-dozen or so don't weigh as much. But no starting guard in the NFL is shorter than Stapleton without pushing the scales to at least 305 pounds.

"I know a lot of people were worried about me starting last week," he said. "I really don't care what the outside world thinks. I'm just trying to do my job for my teammates. They are the people who are relying on me."

Stapleton, a Union, N.J., native, has overcome tough odds all his life:

• He made the Steelers' roster last year despite being sidelined for much of training camp due to knee surgery, while his former Rutgers teammate, 2007 fifth-rounder Cameron Stephenson, was cut.

• He made the team again this year despite not dressing for any regular-season games as a rookie.

• He moved up the depth chart this season, and when Simmons suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the second quarter against the Ravens in Week 4, Stapleton -- not fourth-year veteran Trai Essex -- was summoned.

Through it all, Stapleton never wavered against Jacksonville.

"I felt like if I let myself get wound up and nervous, I would have gone out there and (played poorly)," he said. "I felt like I had to go in there calm, cool and collected. I didn't want my teammates to have to worry, 'Is Darnell shaky? Is he nervous?' "

While it's not all Stapleton's doing, the Steelers line has played better since his arrival. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 15 times in 14 quarters to open the season but only three times in the past six quarters.

"Everybody said I did pretty good," Stapleton said. "But it's only one game, and we've got a long season ahead of us."

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_592575.html

Black@Gold Forever32
10-11-2008, 12:27 PM
I thought Stapleton has done alright...I don't know if he is long time answer at RG.....Time will tell that....But I'm happy Simmons is gone....Nothing against Simmons I just think all his injuries and health issues have taken somewhat of a toll on him and he isn't the player he was when the Steelers drafted him in the first round of the 2002 draft.....

GBMelBlount
10-11-2008, 01:56 PM
Hopefully he is strong, smart and athletic enough to be a solid performer despite being undersized....

Steeldude
10-11-2008, 06:45 PM
was there really any doubt? :smile:

steelreserve
10-11-2008, 07:13 PM
I'm not too concerned about his size. I mean, is being more than 300 pounds is all that necessary anyway? I mean, he could probably bulk up to 330 or 340 pounds if he really wanted to, but if that's not your normal playing weight, you'd think it would slow you down more than anything.

As for height, who even cares? You're trying to shove people around, not dunk a basketball.

Preacher
10-11-2008, 07:58 PM
If he can do the work, I don't care how big he is.

I actually wouldn't mind us trying to move simmons around a bit. He seems to have been playing pretty good lately.

ricksteelers55
10-11-2008, 11:59 PM
personally i think that the problem came from the right side of the line most of the times.Im not a fan of Willie Colon,never been never will.

Id like to see Essex play RT if/when Smith comes back

Preacher
10-12-2008, 12:24 AM
personally i think that the problem came from the right side of the line most of the times.Im not a fan of Willie Colon,never been never will.

Id like to see Essex play RT if/when Smith comes back

I really like Colon's style and ugliness on the field... how mean he is.

He just seems like a fish out of water. I don't know why the coaches aren't trying him in the guard spot... though at this point, it seems that the guard spot is now taken.

Did they ever work him at center?

lilyoder6
10-12-2008, 12:34 AM
stapleton is playing good for us.. never know.. he could be the answer to rg

Steely McSmash
10-12-2008, 03:34 AM
My thinking is that the coaches see Stapleton as the center down the road.

The Duke
10-12-2008, 03:40 AM
My thinking is that the coaches see Stapleton as the center down the road.

either center or guard, I hope he stays as a starter at one

that would really help with the draft next year, which I'm hoping has a good amount of linemen

steelpride12
10-12-2008, 11:05 AM
Lets hope Stapleton can make some kind of name for himself on the Line. I don't know about center, but guard sounds good to me.

lilyoder6
10-12-2008, 11:24 AM
if he can stay a good consistent player that takes away one of the lineman problems as he is only 23 yrs old..

Preacher
10-12-2008, 11:45 AM
either center or guard, I hope he stays as a starter at one

that would really help with the draft next year, which I'm hoping has a good amount of linemen

That's my thought... though I prefer Guard.

if we have two good fairly young guards, then we can build the line around them. Pick up a draft pick and a decent FA (yeah, I know, good luck with that). That leaves one roster spot to let everyone else tryout at.

Steeldude
10-12-2008, 03:33 PM
height doesn't matter if you can still get the job done.

anyone remember ex-steelers' guard terry long? he was pretty good and he stood only 5' 10"

Steelman16
10-13-2008, 01:20 AM
Darnell stepped in and stepped it up! If he continues the solid play, I think he'll cement himself a longterm job, no matter how short he might be. Sheesh, I'd give a lot to be 6'3. :chuckle:

ChronoCross
10-13-2008, 02:37 AM
Stapleton being in there already improved the line. Simmons gives up bunches of sacks. Now all we need is for Marvel Smith to be replaced at LT and we have a line that can possible jell to give ben more time. and less sacks.. Line will only improve if you replace. And simmons being injured has only helped the line. I do not wish injury on any player but showing how much the line can improve without some of this starters that allow sacks might wake up the coaches to see, hey we have been moving in the wrong direction with the line and hopefully they go first round this year line.

El-Gonzo Jackson
10-13-2008, 09:23 AM
That's my thought... though I prefer Guard.

if we have two good fairly young guards, then we can build the line around them. Pick up a draft pick and a decent FA (yeah, I know, good luck with that). That leaves one roster spot to let everyone else tryout at.

I think if Stapleton can continue to improve, then it doesnt really matter that much where he plays. He played center @ Rutgers and when Hartwig's contract is done in 3 seasons, he may be the heir.

I think the Steelers will evaluate what they have when and if Simmons returns. I would not at all be surprised to see the Steelers draft 2 O linemen (OT and OG). It just seems as though OG's are able to step in and play earlier. OT's have to get used to NFL speed and pass rushers, while the Center normally makes all the line calls.

El-Gonzo Jackson
10-13-2008, 09:29 AM
height doesn't matter if you can still get the job done.

anyone remember ex-steelers' guard terry long? he was pretty good and he stood only 5' 10"

Yeah, height doesnt matter as much on the interior line. Shorter stocky guys can get a leverage advantage there.

The first thing I thought when I saw Stapleton playing was that he looked shorter and smaller than Colon or Hartwig, so I wonder if he is actually 6'3" 305. He played well.