By BOB LABRIOLA
LATROBE, Pa. – Even though the news about Darnell Stapleton's knee was pretty good, the time he is expected to miss created something of a numbers crunch along the offensive line at this stage of training camp.
With that reality facing them, the Steelers signed veteran center Alex Stepanovich on Monday. To make room on the roster, the team waived defensive end Jordan Reffett. Stepanovich was due to practice with the Steelers for the first time on Monday afternoon and will wear #67.
Stepanovich, 6-foot-4, 296 pounds, came into the NFL after a career at Ohio State as a fourth-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2004. While it often takes rookie offensive lineman time to adjust to the NFL, Stepanovich was thrown right into the mix, and he started all 16 games of his rookie season.
From there, he saw less action with the Cardinals, primarily because of injuries. Stepanovich injured his hand in the Cardinals preseason scrimmage and missed the entire 2005 preseason and the first regular season game. Then he injured a shoulder on Nov. 20 and went on the injured reserve list on Dec. 6.
After his third season in Arizona, the Cardinals opted not to tender him and he became an unrestricted free agent. He signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2007 and appeared in 12 games with four starts there, and then he played in Atlanta in 2008. The Falcons released him on June 17, 2009.
With Stapleton sidelined and Justin Hartwig still recovering from a broken toe, the Steelers were down to 11 healthy offensive linemen and only two of those – first-year player Doug Legursky and rookie A.Q. Shipley – played center.
Reffett, a 6-4, 292 pound defensive end from Washington, originally signed with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie on April 28, 2008. He was waived at the end of training camp that summer and spent two weeks in October on the team's practice squad that season. He was re-signed by the team after Super Bowl XLIII.