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BURGH86STEEL
05-20-2010, 07:55 PM
http://www.nfl.com/news/story?id=09000d ... nfirm=true (http://www.nfl.com/news/story?id=09000d5d8183b6d3&template=with-video-with-comments&confirm=true)

Pop quiz: Name the only two players in the NFL to post at least 11.5 sacks in each of the last two seasons.

Okay, so the headline here pretty much gives away at least one of the two, so I decided to ask Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley himself if he knew the answer.

"It's got to be me and (Cowboys OLB) DeMarcus Ware," declared Woodley, who took time to chat on the phone at halftime of Tuesday night's Celtics-Magic NBA playoff game.

So I told him that it was, in fact, Jared Allen who was the other player besides him to do so.

"Oh, damn," Woodley said. "Man, I should have known that! I should know that."

That mistake notwithstanding, Woodley is becoming acutely aware of his place in the game as he enters his fourth NFL season. Largely overshadowed by other ends and outside linebackers, Woodley has quietly been one of the league's most impactful defenders the past two years. He's a star just coming into his own as he continues to master the shuffle from college defensive end to outside linebacker in Pittsburgh's complex 3-4 defense.

While acclaim has followed others, like Woodley's teammate on the other side, James Harrison, or other pass rush specialists such as Terrell Suggs, Allen, and Ware, Woodley has toiled in relative anonymity since being selected 46th overall out of Michigan in 2007. If he puts up another season like he has the past two years, that will change.

"Personally, I don't feel like people have given me the respect that I deserve," Woodley said.

Woodley, 25, spent most of his rookie season as a reserve, trying to make the adjustment to his new position. Even so, as he pointed out, he still produced "four sacks in just 80 snaps" and also recorded two sacks in a playoff game against Jacksonville. In 2008, he busted out with 11.5 sacks, cracking the top 10 in the league, then notched six more in the postseason as the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII. Woodley got off to a slow start last year but rallied to finish with 13.5 sacks, setting a franchise record with at least a half sack in eight straight games and compiling 11.5 sacks during the streak.

Woodley has started just 31 career games but already has 29 sacks (Julius Peppers, by comparison, had 30 sacks in 44 starts during his first three seasons). Over the past two seasons, only four players -- Ware (31), Allen (30), Joey Porter (26.5) and Harrison (26) -- have more sacks than Woodley, who has proven to be strong against the run, as well. He tied for the NFL lead with 19 tackles for loss in 2009.


Woodley has become accustomed to being overlooked, but by no means does he relish it.

"I'm definitely motivated, and in this game, with anybody, you get respect when it's earned," Woodley said. "And I feel like I've earned my respect, but people find a way to not give it to me. I wouldn't be talking about it if you didn't ask me, and not to come off as a cocky person, but it was the same thing coming out of college. I was drafted in the second round because I was too slow to play outside linebacker and too short to play end, but I won every award you could win coming out of Michigan ...

"Coming into my second year, people were worried about me moving to outside linebacker and taking (then Steelers OLB) Clark Haggans' spot, but ever since I got on the other side of James Harrison -- not to take anything away from Clark Haggans -- but he's been getting double-digit sacks."

Woodley also operates within a different version of the 3-4 than many other elite pass rushers. Besides run responsibilities, he also is thrust into coverage with much more regularity, covering speedy receivers at times in the zone-blitz scheme.

"People don't look at how many times I drop back in coverage," Woodley said, "and compare those numbers to Suggs, Ware, (Elvis) Dumervil, (Shawne) Merriman. Look at those outside linebackers and see how many times I drop back. I might be dropping back more than actually rushing. The numbers might be ridiculous if I only dropped back as much as they do."

Woodley says getting comfortable in coverage was his biggest challenge, but he believes he has progressed well in that regard. "I'm not nervous when I'm in coverage," Woodley said. "I'm confident. I'm like, 'I'm going to lock this guy down.'"

Eventually, the Steelers are going to have lock up Woodley long-term, as he is playing in the final year of his rookie contract, set to earn $550,000 in 2010. Traditionally, the Steelers would extend his deal with a year remaining, but the limitations of the 30-percent rule and uncertainty about the CBA make the situation unique.

With Ben Roethlisberger facing his issues, Santonio Holmes gone, Harrison now 32, and strong safety Troy Polamalu coming off a season basically lost to injury (he missed 11 games), Woodley could be emerging as a face-of-the-franchise-type player.

"I haven't played my best football yet, that's the thing," Woodley said." I know that I haven't played my best yet. What people see now, I've only been playing linebacker for three years. I played defensive end my whole life. When I really catch on to it, it's really going to be trouble."

BURGH86STEEL
05-20-2010, 08:04 PM
I wonder what his sack numbers would be if he was asked to rush a little more? He appeared to get off to a slow start last season. Dropping into coverage might account for that slow start.

I hope they can get a deal done with him. I too believe his best years are a head. He seems like a level headed individual that fits in well as a Steelers LB. It is almost amazing that the Steelers manage to find quality LB's as much as they do. Whoever scouts LB's for them does a great job.

RuthlessBurgher
05-20-2010, 09:00 PM
Since they put communication devices (like the one's QB's have) in one defensive player's helmet a few years ago, Farrior has always been the guy to wear it. Potsie is a defensive leader, and a 3 down linebacker, so it made sense. But now that James is slowing down (and he may get more breathers than he has in the past with Foote and Fox ready to rotate in to keep everyone fresh), you wonder if the team will give Farrior the "link to LeBeau" helmet again. You need someone who is going to be on the field every down. Troy is always out there (when healthy), but he is a quiet guy and a freelance artist...not necessarily the guy you want communicating defensive signals to everyone else. I think Woodley would be a good candidate to wear that helmet. Seems like a natural leader to me, and he seemingly never leaves the field (strong-side OLB on 1st and 2nd down, rush end on 3rd down passing situations in nickel and dime defenses). I wonder if the team decides to make such a switch this season.

D Rock
05-20-2010, 10:04 PM
I think he might have too much reading and diagnosing of his own to do each play to wear the communication helmet. I would think the same applies to Troy.

IMO, the best person to give it to would be Ryan Clark because he can sit back and look over everything and make the calls.

Luckily these guys are all veterans of the system and don't need to Lebeau-link all that much to be successful. I don't believe it will be any sort of an issue who really ends up wearing it.

cruzer8
05-20-2010, 10:54 PM
I think he might have too much reading and diagnosing of his own to do each play to wear the communication helmet. I would think the same applies to Troy.

IMO, the best person to give it to would be Ryan Clark because he can sit back and look over everything and make the calls.

Luckily these guys are all veterans of the system and don't need to Lebeau-link all that much to be successful. I don't believe it will be any sort of an issue who really ends up wearing it.

It's one-way communication. LeBeau calls the play and the person wearing the helmet with the speaker simply repeats the play that LeBeau calls.

There's no reading or diagnosing until the offense breaks the huddle. The defense has been called already and the speaker has been shut off by then.

StarSpangledSteeler
05-21-2010, 02:23 PM
I would think this year the headset goes to a Foote/Farrior combo role. Foote understands the system about as well as Farrior and i believe they will be sharing the snaps. Foote is fairly vocal and MLB is the optimal spot on the field to be communicating changes.

I think this coming year we draft a first or second round MLB like a Sean Weatherspoon-type (athletically and leadership-wise) to replace Farrior completely. It's just too important of a position in our offense not to have a legitimate star. There has been talk of moving Harrison to MLB but i don't think that will result in maximum production.

I think we resign Woodley, develop Worilds as Harrison's rotation and eventual replacement, develop Gibson as the top back up on either side, keep Timmons at MLB and draft another 1-2 round MLB this year. That would be by far the top LB tandem in the NFL and as talented a crew as any we've had in Pittsburgh in a long time.

RuthlessBurgher
05-21-2010, 03:24 PM
I would think this year the headset goes to a Foote/Farrior combo role. Foote understands the system about as well as Farrior and i believe they will be sharing the snaps. Foote is fairly vocal and MLB is the optimal spot on the field to be communicating changes.

They only allow the device in one defensive player's helmet. Foote and Farrior couldn't both have them. That's why I was saying we should pick a guy who will likely see a higher percentage of the total defensive snaps than Farrior.