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Cowboys CTK: The Center of #53: Mark Stepnoski

RJ Ochoa

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Cowboys Blog - The Center of #53: Mark Stepnoski

Welcome to Hump Day at Inside The Star! I’ve made a formal petition to have an actual camel roam the offices on Wednesdays, but sadly I don’t think this will become a reality. As it is Wednesday we are 6 days away from Training Camp and a mere 53 days (that’s only 76,320 minutes…or 4,579,200 Mississippis if you want to count it) away from football! While you guys get started on counting to four and a half million I’m going to hit you with the Greatest 53 in Dallas Cowboys History.

The Following Players Have All Worn 53 For The Dallas Cowboys:

  • Keith Adams, LB
  • John Babinecz, LB
  • Bob Breunig, LB
  • Bruce Carter, LB
  • Mike Connelly, C
  • Ray Donaldson, C
  • Onzy Elam, LB
  • Oliver Hoyte, FB
  • Garth Jax, LB
  • Cameron Lawrence*, LB
  • Steve Octavien, LB
  • Randy Shannon, LB
  • Dave Simmons, LB
  • Victor Simmons, LB
  • Mark Stepnoski, C
  • Kalen Thornton, LB
  • Fred Whittingham, LB

*Active player on the Dallas Cowboys roster

There are two players on today’s list that we need to highlight. These are two great Dallas Cowboys who played completely different positions.

Mark Stepnoski

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Bob Breunig

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Bob The Builder

The 1975 “Dirty Dozen” Draft Class has made many appearances on our Countdown To Kickoff Series. Bob Breunig, the third round selection, adds to the prestige of that class.

Bob didn’t play much in 1975 when the Dallas Cowboys lost Super Bowl X to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He managed to become the starting strongside linebacker in 1976, but his real breakout was 1977 when he made the move to middle linebacker. Breunig took over for the recently retired Lee Roy Jordan and made his mark in the middle of Doomsday.

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Breunig helped the Dallas Cowboys win Super Bowl XII and established himself as a playmaker on a unit filled with them. He led the team in tackles for a total of six seasons, and he managed to break the single-season tackle record for the team in 1981. Bob Breunig played in 117 straight games at one point in time and retired behind only the Greatest 55 in Dallas Cowboys History, Lee Roy Jordan, in tackles. He was a great Cowboy and did a lot for the franchise, but he falls just short of our 53 honors.

Every Little Step I Take

The University of Pittsburgh had already given the Dallas Cowboys an amazing player back in 1977 with Tony Dorsett. That trend continued in 1989, in the third round specifically, as the Dallas Cowboys found themselves with offensive lineman Mark Stepnoski.


step

The Cowboys moved Step to center, a position he had never played before, and the Greatest 64 in Dallas Cowboys History, Tom Rafferty, tutored him during his final playing years. Mark’s smaller size caused him to slip in the draft, but he learned how to use it well. His individual effort was recognized with a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl after the 1991 season. His travel agent was quite busy as Mark took the trip for the following four years as well.

The Great Wall of Dallas

While Mark achieved some notable personal accomplishments it was what he did as part of a unit that Cowboy fans remember most. Assembled with Mark Tuinei, Nate Newton, Kevin Gogan, and Erik Williams they formed the Great Wall of Dallas. This offensive line is one of the greatest in the history of professional football and helped the Cowboys win back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1990s as well as pave the way for the NFL’s All-Time Leading Rusher, Emmitt Smith.

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Mark Stepnoski and I at Emmitt Smith's Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2010.

Only a handful of people can lay claim to blocking for the NFL’s All-Time Leading Rusher. Mark Stepnoski not only blocked for Emmitt Smith, but he was an integral part of the lanes created for him. The Cowboys of the 1990s ran power draws a lot and the center position is crucial for that. Stepnoski was arguably the greatest center of his era, as exemplified by his presence on the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.

Mark Stepnoski Takes #53

Mark Stepnoski anchored one of the greatest offensive lines in NFL History. He manned the middle for Pro Football Hall of Famers and Dallas Cowboy Legends Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. The center position hardly gets the glitz and glamour of the primary skill positions, but Mark Stepnoski made the center position fun to watch. He continued the long legacy of great Dallas Cowboy centers before him and established himself as the Greatest 53 in Dallas Cowboys History.

Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 52 in Dallas Cowboys History is!


Want to share your opinions on who should be featured on our Countdown To Kickoff? Email me at rjochoa@insidethestar.com or Tweet @rjochoa.

 

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys CTK: The Center of #53: Mark Stepnoski" in the comments below. You can also email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!


I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!

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Robert Quinn’s Return Important For Struggling Cowboys Pass Rush

Kevin Brady

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Breaking News: Robert Quinn Suffers Fractured Hand

Cowboys Nation spent much of the offseason praising the depth of their team as a whole. In particular, though, everyone felt good about what the Cowboys had across their defensive front.

By drafting well in recent years, and acquiring some lesser known players who have turned into solid contributors on the defensive line, the Cowboys have put together a really good group on paper. Despite this perceived depth, however, Dallas' defensive line has not created the pressure through their pass rush which was expected of them through the first two weeks.

After two games the Cowboys have just two sacks, bringing down each opposing quarterback once in each victory. Of course, each sack came at a big moment, as Tyrone Crawford got to Case Keenum on third down early in Sunday's win and DeMarcus Lawrence stripped Eli Manning on a red zone attempt during the season opener. Still, though, the lack of sack production is concerning. Especially considering how often the Cowboys have played with leads so far in 2019.

Star defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence has shouldered much of the criticism from fans the past two weeks, despite playing the best of any of the pass rushers on the team. Lawrence created a couple key pressures against Washington, and is also fresh off recovering from serious injury. He'll be fine.

The major reason for Lawrence's lack of eye-popping sack production, though, is the lack of help he's received from the rest of his rush-mates. For the most part, Crawford has looked like a guy who missed an entire preseason, and while Dorance Armstrong and Joe Jackson are promising young players, they can't be completely counted on just yet.


Insert Robert Quinn.

The former Pro Bowl defensive end could not be returning at a better time for the Cowboys. Not only should Quinn help to alleviate some of the pressure from Lawrence right away, but he gives the team a rusher who can beat one-on-one blocking more consistently than the rest of the ends currently on this roster.

Robert Quinn's return is also perfect due to the opponent. Quinn came to Dallas via trade from the Miami Dolphins this offseason, and he should be motivated to get after the tanking Dolphins this Sunday.

We should be fair in our expectations of Robert Quinn this week, but don't be surprised if this Cowboys pass rush wakes up quickly Sunday, as he provides a spark on the opposite end of DeMarcus Lawrence.


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Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott Should Be Rid of all Rust

Matthew Lenix

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Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott Should be rid of all Rust

The Dallas Cowboys were engaged in a very eventful and sometimes nauseating holdout with All-Pro Running Back Ezekiel Elliott this summer. After all the speculation and jabs through the media, the two sides finally agreed on a six-year 90 million dollar extension with 50 million in guarantees just prior to the season opener. With his financial future secured it was time for Elliott to get whatever fieldwork he could before playing the New York Giants. With limited practice time, Elliott had a slow start to the season with a 53-yard performance on 13 carries. However, after watching the Cowboys win against the Redskins it's clear that he's slowly but surely getting back to form.

Elliott came into Sunday's game averaging just under 89 yards per game on the road against the Redskins, including one of his best career rushing performances in 2017 with 150 yards. His 484 yards and 6 touchdowns against Washington prior to Sunday's game were both career highs for Elliott versus a single opponent.

This wouldn't be your typical Elliott game of consistent ten-yard runs and leaping over would-be defenders. Instead, it was a steady dose of Elliott as his workload from week one increased from 14 touches to 25. By halftime, he had 48 yards on 11 carries as the Cowboys held a 14-7 lead.

Ezekiel Elliott Should be rid of all Rust

The Cowboys held a 24-14 lead late in the second half until Elliott capped off a ten-play 54-yard drive that put them up 17, and the game essentially out of reach. In the second half, he had just 36 yards on 11 carries until a 27-yard run late in the fourth quarter gave him 111 yards on 23 carries for the game. Now, Elliott averages 94.3 yards a game on the road for his career against the Redskins, and an amazing 99.2 yards overall.


Going into week three Elliott has almost 40 real game carries under his belt. What this means is now he's gotten the necessary reps and taken the necessary hits needed to get him in football shape, which is something he couldn't fully simulate working out in Cabo. Even with a reduced role in the season opener Elliott is currently on a 1,300-yard 16 touchdown pace as we speak. Those are the kind of numbers that get you the NFL's highest paycheck for running backs, an honor Elliott took over recently, and rightfully so.

Elliott himself can feel things coming back to form with a couple of games out of the way. He spoke about where he was postgame after this past Sunday's win over the Redskins.

“I think slowly and surely, I’m getting back in my rhythm, knocking that rust off,” Elliott told Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. “I feel good about the game. I feel good about where I am right now. I feel good about everything going forward.”

The Cowboys are off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2015, and more importantly, they have their All-Pro running back in football shape and fully confident coming off a 100-yard performance. Next up is the Miami Dolphins at home who have a defense that has given up 102 points and 391 yards rushing in the first two weeks. Another opportunity for Elliott to get his legs under him even more and produce at a high level as the Cowboys look for their first 3-0 start since 2008.


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Dak Prescott not Only one to Roast CB Josh Norman on Sunday

Brian Martin

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Dak Prescott not Only one Roasting CB Josh Norman on Sunday

Thanks to Cornerback Josh Norman the Dallas Cowboys 31-21 victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday was a little extra sweet for Quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott's goal of course entering this Week 2 matchup was to seal the win for the Cowboys, but doing that and being able to make Norman eat his words had to make the moment a little extra special for him.

You may have forgotten, but Josh Norman pretty much said he wasn't all that impressed with Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys performance in the season opener against the New York Giants. Prescott of course had a career day completing 25 and 32 passes 405 yards and four touchdowns, but to that Norman replied "anybody can do that".

Josh Norman has since said those comments about Prescott were misconstrued and taken out of context, but that could just be him crawfishing and trying to save face after the Cowboys QB roasted him on more than one occasion Sunday afternoon.

Almost fittingly, some of Prescott's best plays against the Redskins were to Josh Norman's side of the field. The first was the 51 yard bomb to WR Devin Smith that resulted in a touchdown. And then Dak was able to get a little physical with a stiff arm to No. 24's face on his long run. It could have even been a little worse for Norman if Michael Gallup could've corralled the deep pass down the sideline from his QB. Anyway you slice it though the Redskins mouthy CB got roasted.

As much as I liked Dak Prescott's roasting of Josh Norman, it fails in comparison to how he's getting slammed on social media. It's downright demoralizing, but comical at the same time.

Here are a few examples:


Not Robert Griffin on Twitter

Can you find Josh Norman?

TOAST! LOL Food humor for the win! @Pseudo_RGIII wasn't the only one roasting Josh Norman on social media though.

Dov Kleiman on Twitter

What type of coverage does Josh Norman calls this? https://t.co/P74jkY3ut5

Someone got caught looking in the backfield. That's gotta be embarrassing. That's not all though, there's more…

https://twitter.com/Jaton336/status/1173329971626094592

Had enough yet!? No… How about one more just from the beautiful Jane Slater for fun?

Jane Slater on Twitter

Dak with a stiff arm to Josh Norman and a 42 yard run. Michael Gallup helping block. Think he heard Norman say "anybody can do that" https://t.co/3JARYX5cII

Out of the numerous tweets I went through roasting Josh Norman, Jane Slater's is probably my favorite. That is exactly the kind of face I made on Prescott's long run that ended in him stiff arming Norman.

It's not a very day you get the opportunity to make someone eat their words, but I'm truly happy Dak Prescott was able to make Josh Norman eat his.  The social media roasting was just icing on the cake. All in all, Norman probably got what he deserved and made think twice about what he says when he opens his mouth in the future.


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