After reading many threads in many places and trying just about everything I saw (removed HW until almost nothing left, reduced BIOS settings to minimal items, good quality ISO burn, booth from USB, etc.), I was finally able to resolve the problem on my system and it had nothing to do with the DVD
drive/drivers at all (I had even removed all IDE components), it was the SATA drivers for the MoBo
On another PC (obviously), I downloaded the latest Win7 drivers for my motherboard
and put them on the USB stick that I was installing Win7 from (although this should probably work even if you install from DVD, just as long as you can get to them when you Browse from the error dialog). Once I got the error, I browsed to the files to install, but they still didn't show up. I unchecked the box for not displaying incompatible drivers and then they showed up. I selected the driver and hit Next and everything went smoothly after that.
What drives me crazy is that the error message gets you looking for DVD drivers when it has nothing to do with that, plus Win7 doesn't even recognize the correct drivers as being compatible with the hardware!
Anyway, after several days wasted at least my system is up and running finally. Hopefully this will help resolve the problem for others as well and save them from wasting as much time. Good luck!