Pittsburgh Steelers: Stock Rising, Falling After Preseason Week 1
1. LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB
The much-anticipated debut of rookie RB Le'Veon Bell fell far short of expectations as the former Michigan State Spartan was held out of the game with a sore knee. But one running back did step up against the Giants. And it wasn't who anyone expected.
After signing with the Steelers in the offseason, the former Arizona Cardinal and Pitt Panther was no lock to make the team. Pittsburgh has a deep backfield and the fight for a roster spot will come down to the wire.
If Stephens-Howling keeps on turning out games like this, however, it'll be hard for Pittsburgh to part ways with the veteran.
2. Al Woods, DL
Coming into the 2013 season, one of the biggest things the Steelers' defense needed to improve on was their defensive line play. The team barely added anything to the unit in the offseason meaning they needed to rely on help from within.
They may have found it.
Al Woods, a fifth-year veteran, had maybe the best game of his professional career on Saturday and the best of any Steelers defender. Woods recorded nine total tackles, two of which came behind the backfield, and a sack on backup QB Ryan Nassib.
Woods has worked both inside and outside this offseason, preparing himself for what looks like an increase in playing time. With Ziggy Hood's underwhelming play continuing and an expiring contract on the books, Pittsburgh may look more to Woods for help on the outside.
But he'll have to keep playing at a high level if he wants to crack the starting lineup.
1. Jason Worilds, OLB
Despite recording a sack on Giants backup QB David Carr, Saturday wasn't a very good night for Jason Worilds.
On a single Giants drive, Worilds was flagged for roughing the passer and unnecessary roughness, all within two plays of each other.
It didn't get better for the veteran outside linebacker after head coach Mike Tomlin yanked him from the game and ripped into him on the sidelines. Not a good sign for a guy entrenched in a battle for a starting spot.
But mental mistakes aren't often tolerated by Tomlin or the Steelers. It also helps Worilds that camp-combatant Jarvis Jones did little to light the world on fire.
Worilds will still enter Week 2 of the preseason as the starter, but he needs to step his game up big time. This is his best and maybe final chance to make an impact for the Steelers. So far, not so good for Worilds.
2. Jonathan Dwyer, RB
Running back Jonathan Dwyer was handed a golden opportunity on Saturday night when it became apparent that Le'Veon Bell would be held out. All eyes would be on him, and he had a shot to take a commanding lead in the running back battle.
Needless to say, he didn't step up to the plate.
Father-to-be Al Woods loves the Steelers and doesn't want to move
By Dale Grdnic on Aug 15 2013
LATROBE, Pa. -- Al Woods is in his fourth NFL season, but only the most ardent Pittsburgh Steelers fans would know about him.
That number should increase markedly this year.
Woods led the Steelers defense with nine total tackles, including six solo, two tackles behind the line, including one sack for seven yards and one quarterback hurry in the preseason opener against the New York Giants. Woods played exclusively at left end, but his position flexibility, as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin calls it, will be the key to extending his career with the club.
"One guy's misfortune or circumstance creates an opportunity for others," Tomlin said. "Hopefully, those guys will utilize the opportunity for good, particularly in the case of Al Woods. He's a guy that has been working at end.
"We've had some short lines on the outside due to injury. We have Nick Williams back, and (Woods) is providing flexibility for us to move him inside and show what he's capable of there. He is a big-body guy that is performing well, and we want him to add value to his cause and ours by showing position flexibility."
Woods has shown a lot more than that since the Steelers re-signed him in 2011. While Ziggy Hood and Cam Heyward have first-round pedigrees, Woods is a passionate pass-rusher. At 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds, he has the size and power to stop the run, but Woods also has displayed the quickness needed to get off blocks and make plays behind the line. Neither Hood nor Heyward have done that with any consistency yet.
"Al has been working real hard, and he has a baby on the way, well, his wife does," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. "He's been playing tough and having a good camp. He has to. This is Al's fourth year. Itís one of those things where your back is kind of against the wall.
"And he really needs to make plays in order to keep his job. Al is at that crossroad, and he needs to keep on doing what he's doing. That's what I told him in the game. I said not to be satisfied with just one play. Then, he just kept making them, and that's what he has to do."
The Steelers coaches have thought enough about Woods to have him be a backup at both defensive end spots, as well as the nose tackle, and he has been solid at each. When starting nose tackle Steve McLendon was excused from a recent practice, Woods stepped in for him. He is Hood's backup at left end. He can rush the passer from both spots and occupy blockers.
Woods is a guy whose role could enhance with continued improvement. That didn't appear to be likely when the Steelers first claimed him off waivers from the New Orleans Saints in 2010. The Saints had drafted him in the fourth round that season, but he apparently fell into disfavor quite quickly. The Steelers signed him to their practice squad that year, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers eventually claimed him.
The Seattle Seahawks signed him in 2011, and he played two games for them. The Steelers got him back and put him on the active roster, but he did not play. Woods played in 12 games for the Steelers last season, primarily on special teams, and recorded just two tackles. Those modest stats did not reflect his development and certainly weren't a harbinger for things to come for Woods.
"I trained really hard in the offseason to get ready for this year, and I think I did pretty well in the spring," Woods said. "But I don't want to look back. I think we should only be concerned about today and getting better today. When tomorrow comes, we'll work on getting better that day. You can't worry about yesterday, because you can never get it back.
"So, that's what I'm trying to do, get better every day, one day at a time. I don't want to move around any more. I love it here. I really do. I love the people, I love the team and organization. It's a good place to be. The coaches, they're real upfront and honest. The guys, we can easily go talk to them. They're real easy to talk to. It's just a good place to be."
And if Woods continues to progress, Woods will be just as good for the Steelers.