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NOVA STEELERS
10-14-2008, 01:01 PM
PITTSBURGH — The Steelers may have found their center of the future. And no, it’s not Justin Hartwig, who’s playing the position right now.

Don’t be surprised if the Steelers’ next center is Darnell Stapleton, who’s starting to put together a rather remarkable success story.

For this season, Stapleton likely will remain at right guard. He’s there as a replacement for Kendall Simmons, who’s done for the year with a ruptured Achilles heel.

But when he played college football at Rutgers, Stapleton was a center.

“Center … that’s easy,” Stapleton said when asked where he’d prefer to play. “I love center. I just feel that the center is the leader of the offensive, and I like that type of responsibility. I feel that I’m more naturally built to play center.”

Not that he’s small, but at 6-foot-3 and 306 pounds, Stapleton is the Steelers’ smallest offensive lineman. He only bench presses 395 pounds. That’s not a lot of weight for an offensive lineman to put up.

Perhaps it’s Stapleton’s strong legs — “I’m big squats guy,” he said — that serve him best when he blocks opposing defenders. His coaches have raved about his leverage the past two games. He’s able to move larger obstacles by staying low and taking the correct blocking angles and techniques.

Stapleton made his debut with the first-team offense when Simmons was hurt in the Sept. 29 game against Baltimore. Stapleton isn’t the main reason why the Steelers won that night. But when he entered the game, the Steelers trailed 13-3. With Stapleton, the Steelers outscored the Ravens 20-7.

Last week when Stapleton made his first pro start, the Steelers beat Jacksonville 26-21.

“I’d like to think I held my own,” Stapleton said. “I made a few mistakes. But I didn’t allow any sacks.”

Stapleton, who turned 23 on Sept. 21, earned a roster spot with the Steelers last summer as undrafted rookie free agent out of Rutgers. Even though a knee injury kept him from playing in three of five preseason games, he was impressive enough to win a roster spot. He even beat out guard Cameron Stephenson, his ex-Rutgers teammate who was picked by the Steelers in the fifth round of the 2007 draft.

“I just think we saw something in him for down the road,” O-line coach Larry Zierlein said at the time.

That could be as the starting center.

Sean Mahan, acquired last year via free agency, failed at the position. Mahan has since been traded. Justin Hartwig, acquired this year on the free-agent market, hasn’t performed at the level the Steelers hoped. His long-range future with the team is iffy.

Stapleton, who’s listed as the backup center this year even though he didn’t dress for a game last season, may replace Hartwig as early as next year.

“I’m a competitor. I just love to compete,” Stapleton said. “I just want to help this team in any way I can. I’ll play wherever they put me”


I like what Hartwig has shown to this point, will be interesting to see how it pans out.

BlitzburghRockCity
10-14-2008, 02:06 PM
If Stapleton plays well this year the rest of the way who in the world is going to want Simmons back at RG?? :wtf: I understand Darnell a true Center who can also play Guard but then we're back to having Simmons underachieve.

Dean Denton
10-14-2008, 02:15 PM
If he's a good center, then let it rain because thats the most important part of a football team. IMO...

$teelersRule
10-14-2008, 03:44 PM
i am thinking next year is going to be (essex/#1pick), kemo, stapelton, colon, (essex,#1pick, maybe hills):thinking:

--- Added 10/14/2008 at 01:44 PM ---

i think simmon's career is over with that injury

SteelfordWexler
10-14-2008, 03:50 PM
Kemo is an UFA after the season. Simmons has blown an achilies - he is not certain to come back from that injury at full strength. So if we have a couple of guys who can play Center/ Guard (Hartwig/Stapleton)under contract we will probably need them next year. Finally, some good news for the Oline - that we seem to have gotten lucky with our pickup of Stapleton.

DocHolliday1989
10-14-2008, 03:54 PM
I think that the young man has had a great story so far, but we will be hitting our hardest part of our schedule in the next few weeks after the Bungholes this sunday and that will be the telling tales for him and the rest of our offensive line. I am not so harsh on Simmons I guess, but the guy just cant get to the next level since the first year of his career. The Steelers need to upgrade at OG and OT in my opinion, but I think that Max Starks should be starting somewhere at either RT or LT.. the guy played well late last year at LT and to be making as much $$$ as he is, he needs to b playing somewhere..
:grin1:

BlitzburghRockCity
10-14-2008, 05:54 PM
Kemo is most likely gone unless the team can get him inked before he hits the market. Essex won't garner much attention in FA so he could be back. I'm all for Stapleton being in competition with Hartwig. So far though Justin is progressing nicely and if he continues to do well the 2 might flip flop positions next year depending on what happens with the rest of the line. Im happy to see Darnell getting the chance to start, he's the prototypical Center build and would fit in nicely but so far I like how he's progressing at Guard. It's going to be an interesting offseason on the OL for sure.

Stlrs4Life
10-14-2008, 08:45 PM
Sure is good to finally hear some good news about our OL.

jpele
10-14-2008, 09:02 PM
I'm with the majority in thinking its about time we got some good news about our o'line. The fact thats its Stapelton an undrafted free agent makes it even sweeter.

BlitzburghRockCity
10-15-2008, 12:37 AM
If Kemo does leave that might open up Colon to consider competing for that open RG spot. Just some food for thought there...

SteelfordWexler
10-15-2008, 12:14 PM
If Kemo does leave that might open up Colon to consider competing for that open RG spot. Just some food for thought there...

Maybe, but I think we are going to be scrambling for tackles. I believe Hills and Colon are the only guys who can play tackle signed for next year.

$teelersRule
10-15-2008, 01:10 PM
Maybe, but I think we are going to be scrambling for tackles. I believe Hills and Colon are the only guys who can play tackle signed for next year.


I hope we trade up in this years draft to get a LT put essex at RT stapelton at center and hopefully resign kemo if not then we have hartwig and colon as our two guards this season. i would much rather have colon and hartwig battle for the last spot and keep kemo at LG. i think with this injury simmons is done for good. he was slow before this and this is only going to make it worse.

HUNT4SEVEN
10-16-2008, 11:58 AM
I would like to see Stapleton at center :yellowthumb:an hartwig at guard, hopefully we keep Kemo, but i wouldn't mind seeing Essex at right tackle either, Colon:scratch:i'm still not sold on him, an i wish they would get rid of him,But we'll see how good the O-line is real soon in these upcoming weeks:tt02::yellowthumb:

K Train
10-16-2008, 03:21 PM
dont hate on colon, hes one of our better lineman, hes just not playing the right position.

stapleton is a baller, without question....they kept him around for a reason i really like how he played last week.

Dont be surprised if hills is our future at LT, the dude can play and he can dominate. i thought he played really good in the preseason. Essex is a guard too, i hate having guards play tackle...we have to many talented guards lol. I kinda am starting to like kemo, hes not as worthless as i thought.

best case scenerio this year is we end up with oher (wont happen), andre smith, eugene monroe (i love him) or possibly duke robinson.

but then again dline is also an option is guys like al woods or tyson jackson are available

$teelersRule
10-16-2008, 03:45 PM
dont hate on colon, hes one of our better lineman, hes just not playing the right position.

stapleton is a baller, without question....they kept him around for a reason i really like how he played last week.

Dont be surprised if hills is our future at LT, the dude can play and he can dominate. i thought he played really good in the preseason. Essex is a guard too, i hate having guards play tackle...we have to many talented guards lol. I kinda am starting to like kemo, hes not as worthless as i thought.

best case scenerio this year is we end up with oher (wont happen), andre smith, eugene monroe (i love him) or possibly duke robinson.

but then again dline is also an option is guys like al woods or tyson jackson are available

i agree with you on just about everything here, i think hills is our future RT though. hopefully out LT comes early in this draft

Preacher
10-16-2008, 05:45 PM
I haven't been impresssed with Colon, though a number of people say he is out of position right now, and that may be.

What I would rather have, is Kemo resigned (he seems to be doing pretty dang well at that position) and Stapleton prove himself at RG, and kept there. If available, pick up a center in FA (yeah, I know, the Steelers in FA? It would give half of us a heart attack) and let him and Hartwig fight it out. Draft a tackle high in the first round (trade a couple picks, as we are pretty dang deep pretty much everywhere but the Oline right now, even the D line looks quite deep for another year or so before age starts to REALLY catch up to them) and then let the rest of the lineman fight it out for the last spot on the OL.

That would mean Colon, possibly Starks (i doubt he is going to get a decent contract next year from anyone else), Hill, Smith, and Hartwig all fighting for that fifth spot on the line. Of course, I am assuming that a team would be willing trade a high middle draft pick for a first rounder, and say, a third and a fourth(There is thought that we will pick up a third with the departing of Faneca)... which may not be likely. I am also assuming a lineman drafted that high will be able to contribute immediately, which also may not be likely.

But hey, a man can dream right?