Stapler Put On The Shelf

The Pittsburgh Steelers have experienced their first notable injury of the season. And it comes in the one area of the team which can ill afford any changes. Further, it looks like one of the position battles mentioned in my previous post is over before it got a chance to begin.

RG Darnell Stapleton is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery later this afternoon.  Which means the Steelers will be missing at least 20% of their starting offensive line for the foreseeable future. It also means the hair on our team is 35% less cool without the Stapler’s Hall of Fame caliber dreads.

Recovery time is usually about 2-4 weeks for this kind of operation, although I’m skeptical of him returning that soon. A month might be enough for an athletic, limber, well-conditioned wide receiver or running back to rehabilitate but an offensive lineman? I highly doubt it. Almost a year later, Kendall Simmons still hasn’t recovered from ACL surgery, although granted that is a much more serious injury.

However, when it comes to Stapleton, his strengths as an OL are his very good balance and quick feet. If a balky knee saps even a fraction of that quickness, defensive players will run past him like a scene out of “The Matrix.” Our line struggles enough in pass protection without one of our better pass blockers playing hurt.

The RG job falls to Trai Essex for the time being. Essex, a Steeler since 2005, is a valuable backup because he can play any position on the line. In fact, he replaced Marvel Smith at LT when Smith left the Baltimore game due to back spasms. Evidently, Essex didn’t impress the coaches because Max Starks started every other game for the rest of the season.

I’m guessing the Steelers would love rookie Kraig Urbik to steal the job but that’s a tall order for any rookie, let alone a 3rd round pick, to fill. Essex will most likely be the man guarding Ben Roethlisberger‘s right side until he shows he can’t. Let’s just hope that proof doesn’t include a shot of Ben lying in a broken heap on the turf.

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