Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley was a full participant in practice on Thursday, making it likely he will play Sunday if he doesn’t suffer any setbacks.
What appears to be more in question is where Woodley will be playing when the Steelers host the Dolphins in a 1 p.m. ET game that is a must-win contest for each team.
Woodley has sent mixed signals this week, saying he is staying at left outside linebacker while also acknowledging that he would need little to no practice time at right outside linebacker before playing it in a game.
Mike Tomlin has seemed more open than ever to flipping his outside linebackers, and the fashion in which Jason Worilds has dominated from the left side should be the biggest consideration when the seventh-year coach tries to maximize the Steelers’ two best pass-rushers.
Woodley has missed the past three games with a calf strain, and during that span Worilds has passed the seventh-year veteran for the team lead in sacks with six. He has also established himself at left outside linebacker perhaps for the rest of this season – and beyond 2013.
It makes all the sense in the world for Tomlin to keep Worilds at left outside linebacker and accommodate him even though Woodley is the highest-paid defensive player in Steelers history as well as seventh on the team’s all-time sack list.
Worilds is simply the better and more reliable player right now, and Woodley has said he is willing and able to adjust.
“I think that our guys can play on either side,” Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. “We kind of practice in that way, more so in training camp than when we get in the actual season. We try to plan for the unexpected, if you will. That means guys have to be able to move around and play other positions. LaMarr, I think, is certainly athletic enough to play anywhere we put him, maybe at nose tackle. I think he’d do OK.”
LeBeau smiled after the last line.
Woodley isn’t lining up at nose tackle even though it looks more and more likely that Steve McLendon will miss a second consecutive game because of a high-ankle sprain.
Not should he line up at left outside linebacker if Worilds has played well enough there to make the job his to lose.