Well, that was an ugly game. I’m sure there are some positive take-aways, but I have a hard time seeing them immediately after a loss. It might take several days since they lost to the Ravens. I guess, I can say is a positive tone, that at least it wasn’t a blow-out. The defense kept the score down and got pressure on Flacco and the offense, but I started to wonder. Where’s Woodley?
LaMarr Woodley is a great member of the Steelers’ defense, but I’m not hearing his name called out very much during the games. When I looked at his stats, they mirrored James Harrison and that was a little surprising because Harrison missed three games to Woodley’s one. Woodley had outstanding years from 2008 to 2010 averaging 57 tackles and 11.5 sacks. He missed six regular season games last year due to a hamstring injury, so I did not include those numbers. Prior to the playing the Ravens on Nov 18th, Woodley only had 24 tackles and 3 sacks. Ok, the other team is supposed to prevent you from getting to the quarterback, but they seem to have really figured Woodley out. Lately I feel it is a little like that kid’s game where you try to spot the character with the red-striped hat among a sea of people. I admit, I’m a little spoiled because of how well he has played in previous years. So, after a defensive play and I watch the defenders slowly get up off the ground, I expect to see Woodley in the pile, particularly if the quarterback is at the bottom of the pile. Several times during the Ravens game, I saw Woodley standing beside the pile and I started to wonder if Woodley was 100% healthy or if the defense is just putting more effort toward blocking him. However if they are, it isn’t freeing up any other defenders, like Harrison or Keisel, to get through too often. This is not the Steelers front line I have enjoyed watching so much over the last few years. I enjoyed watching so many different players that I couldn’t decide whose jersey to get. I never did get one.
Woodley is now a veteran and he probably gets a lot of attention during a team’s preparation when they are facing the Steelers. Happily, Woodley added to his sack total during the Raven’s game, getting Flacco on the ground and doing his signature sidekick. I was afraid he was getting rusty with it and might pull something when he tried to do it. Cris Collinsworth noted that Woodley is playing much better, so maybe he, like Harrison, hasn’t been 100%. I also think that quarterbacks are getting smarter and getting rid of the ball quicker when they see their offensive front line starting to fall apart. Guys like Woodley have helped change that mindset and maybe his lower sack total is from that. I still want to see Woodley, Harrison, and the rest of the linebackers say hello to the quarterback in that personal Steelers way, but I guess making the quarterback throw a bad ball is good too.
So, where’s Woodley? Well, he’s lining up but maybe he’s still working his way back to 100%. Once you have an injury, you’re unlikely to return to 100% until you have the off season to rest. I hope his stats come back to rival his 2010 numbers, but with only 4 sacks over 10 games, it’s unlikely. For now, Woodley gets to be the guy the other team plans for and the Steelers might need to start figuring out who else can get through the line. I will still keep watching for his signature side kick though!