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tony hipchest
10-23-2011, 02:11 AM
with healthy knees he was probably well on his way of being a 10 year starter in the nfl.


Larry Zierlein is not a man given to hyperbole. The former Steelers offensive line coach, a Vietnam veteran, values actions above words and loyalty above all.

Maybe that is why Zierlein uncharacteristically opened up when I inquired about a forgotten Steeler named Darnell Stapleton.

Remember him? Stapleton, then 23, was the Steelers' starting right guard in the four-part epic known as Super Bowl XLIII. Which means he was an integral part of one of the great drives in NFL history.

Look hard enough, and you can see Stapleton, No. 72, celebrating in the background after Santonio Holmes' miraculous catch. Stapleton blocked Gabe Watson on the play -- and never played another NFL down, save for the kneel-down to close the game.

Degenerative arthritis in his knees forced Stapleton to retire at the ripe, young age of 24. He never even lined up for a preseason game after the Super Bowl.

This seemed like an appropriate week to track him down, seeing as the Steelers and Cardinals play today for the first time since the night of Feb. 1, 2009.

But first, I wanted to hear from Zierlein. He liked Stapleton when the latter was a brawling center at Rutgers, opening holes for Ray Rice. The Steelers signed Stapleton as an undrafted free agent in 2007. His versatility helped him make the team, and early in 2008 he replaced an injured Kendall Simmons at right guard.

The Steelers ran through a meat-grinder schedule and finally won the Super Bowl on a legendary 78-yard drive.

I emailed Zierlein for a comment about Stapleton, expecting to receive maybe a few sentences in return.

Instead, I got a goose bump-raising, 500-word essay. Here's part of it:

Darnell was great at identifying defenses. He could play both guard positions and center. He made up for a lack of great size and strength by being an outstanding technician. He was highly respected in the OL meeting room. He was physically and mentally tough. The knee problem which ended his career was bothering him in 2008 and in the Super Bowl but he never complained and never missed a snap. ... I will never forget the double-team block he and Willie Colon made on San Diego defensive lineman Jamal Williams on the one-back power play. Jamal was a big strong guy and he was trying to anchor down but Darnell and Willie drove him about 5 yards straight back with Jamal's feet digging a furrow in the turf.

Stapleton misses the thrill of executing a perfect block. He'll sometimes find himself, alone in his basement, watching a Steelers game and calling the plays. Just last week he went on YouTube to watch the Super Bowl drive.

But don't mistake him for a bitter, disillusioned ex-athlete.



Read more: Starkey: Forgotten Steeler still watches from afar - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_763425.html#ixzz1ba9GOvDx

i love how steelerfans blame his knee arthritis, colon's freak accidents on hustle plays, max starks neck, and kemoeatu's chronic knee problems on the current coach and conditioning staff.

then again the steelers have neglected the o-line for "years". :rolleyes:

queeg
10-23-2011, 02:44 AM
with healthy knees he was probably well on his way of being a 10 year starter in the nfl.



i love how steelerfans blame his knee arthritis, colon's freak accidents on hustle plays, max starks neck, and kemoeatu's chronic knee problems on the current coach and conditioning staff.

then again the steelers have neglected the o-line for "years". :rolleyes:

The guy played...he did his best.....he will always be a Steeler.....and a WINNER!!!!"

Steeldude
10-23-2011, 04:16 AM
where is zierlein now? he was such a wonderful O-line coach.

ricardisimo
10-23-2011, 04:24 AM
where is zierlein now? he was such a wonderful O-line coach.
I think he's focusing on internet porn full-time now.

Rick5895
10-23-2011, 07:26 AM
Great article on Stapleton. It would have been nice to see how he would have progressed if not for the knee issues.

MasterOfPuppets
10-23-2011, 11:37 AM
stapleton absolutely sucked ass.he got beat beat like a rented mule more often than not.

tony hipchest
10-23-2011, 12:05 PM
stapleton absolutely sucked ass.he got beat beat like a rented mule more often than not.didnt you know? we're supposed to throw all of our rookies into the fire. its the only way they can learn and develop, otherwise their talents rot away on the bench and its a waste.

i think its fair to say anyone who had to play alongside hartwig (or especially mahan for that matter) woulda sucked.

il like to see how stapelton woulda looked in his 3rd-4th year alongside pouncey.

MasterOfPuppets
10-23-2011, 12:32 PM
didnt you know? we're supposed to throw all of our rookies into the fire. its the only way they can learn and develop, otherwise their talents rot away on the bench and its a waste.

i think its fair to say anyone who had to play alongside hartwig (or especially mahan for that matter) woulda sucked.

il like to see how stapelton woulda looked in his 3rd-4th year alongside pouncey.
my guess is he'd still look like the same undrafted rookie that didn't have the physical tools to adeqately compete against bigger NFL defensive linemen...you can't always blame the guy lined up next to you because the guy your trying to block one on one just physically manhandled ya. and thats what i remember most about stapletons play. he lacked strength.

DanRooney
10-23-2011, 12:36 PM
I'm sorry but adding a player like Darnell Stapleton isn't "addressing your OL."

queeg
10-23-2011, 12:36 PM
stapleton absolutely sucked ass.he got beat beat like a rented mule more often than not.

Real regretable posting! This is unacceptable.

tony hipchest
10-23-2011, 12:47 PM
my guess is he'd still look like the same undrafted rookie that didn't have the physical tools to adeqately compete against bigger NFL defensive linemen...you can't always blame the guy lined up next to you because the guy your trying to block one on one just physically manhandled ya. and thats what i remember most about stapletons play. he lacked strength.its not impossible for a 295 lb OL going to a proffessional team with proper diet, conditioning, and weight training and turn into a 320 lb beast in a few years.

im not saying this is certain to happen but it seems he put in the work to have atleast earned the opportunity to try had his knees not failed him (which in itself could be a sign of improper conditioning before he got to the steelers).

as for the silly notion that a team must draft someone in the 1st 2 rounds to address a position, there are plenty of players like jeff saturday or carl nicks, that prove otherwise.

MasterOfPuppets
10-23-2011, 12:54 PM
Real regretable posting! This is unacceptable.
no regrets here. :popcorn:

SunshineMan21
10-23-2011, 07:30 PM
Smart player with a lot of heart who probably didn't have the physical tools to be a long-term starter.

Sad that he didn't at least get the chance to play out his career--then again, what a way to go out! Nobody can take that Super Bowl championship away from him.

steelfury02
10-23-2011, 08:21 PM
:coffee: yup

stb_steeler
10-24-2011, 01:24 AM
I cant believe Haggens is still playing for the Cards.....Or was i seeing things? lol
Oh and Joey Portter was a non factor also......

queeg
10-24-2011, 01:59 AM
stapleton absolutely sucked ass.he got beat beat like a rented mule more often than not.

Lets be professional!

Steeldude
10-24-2011, 02:26 AM
I think he's focusing on internet porn full-time now.

:rofl: i forgot about that incident

BKAnthem
10-24-2011, 12:49 PM
i just remember dude get stood up at the line of scrimmage ALOT on run plays....and being barely adequate in passing blocking and i'm sure he was really nice guy.....but if plugging in an average undrafted free agent qualifies as addressing the line in some peoples eyes, then this is homerism at it's finest