The reality of the situation with the Steelers salary cap is not IF a linebacker will go, but which one? Since last week, James Harrison has been walking around with a target on his back after his comments about not willing to take less money to stay with the team. The choice of letting a player like Harrison go didn’t seem like it was far off from the right solution. That was then…. this is now.
Ron Cook took the other side of the linebacker formation to task in a write up over the weekend. Cook interviewed an unnamed Steeler player who said that Woodley was “awful.”
“He tells us he works out, but we didn’t see it. He wasn’t in shape. That has to be a reason why he was always hurt.”
Pretty harsh criticism, but it’s pretty much confirming what I think a lot of us in Steeler Nation were thinking over the course of the season…. hell, two seasons. Woodley is known to be overweight for his height and position. Based on what we’ve seen as far as overall injuries in the NFL go (and it’s way up) since the new CBA, it’s up to the player’s responsibility to keep in shape during the offseason. The CBA creates a less than ideal situation for teams trying to keep players in shape and football ready, and they are close to powerless to enforce anything outside of the OTA’s and camp. Woodley’s portliness and proneness to hamstring injuries (two in two years since the new CBA) puts him high on the ‘suspicious people’ list of folks who may not be putting their all in the offseason and their workouts. Conditioning is huge, and if you aren’t in time, it could rock your world for the worse.
So what does all of this have to do with Harrison and his future? Simply put – keep Harrison and dump the extra weight (literally and figuratively) of Woodley. Woodley (aka Little Big Snack) was on route to have a great season in 2011. But, a hamstring pull in week 8 kept him out for the rest of the season. Woodley was again plump when arriving to camp and this is where it seems the unnamed teammate’s criticism takes hold. Woodley again injured his hamstring and struggled all season to fully heal. Woodley’s base salary is $1 million less than the entire cap hit the team will take if they keep Harrison. Woodley is set to cost the team over $13 million in 2013
Harrison on the other hand will cost just over $10 million in cap space. Harrison, though 7 years older than Woodley by the time the season starts, appears to have the drive to play his best football no matter the time or situation. Harrison suffered a knee injury that required surgery in the offseason. It was a long road to recovery for Harrison, and he was far from 100% at the start of the 2012 campaign. He continued to work hard all season and improved as the season went along. The last third of the season, Steeler Nation began to witness glimpses of the Harrison of old – better attack, better pursuit, and better tackling.
The striking difference between the two players is work ethic. Harrison trains and plays like he wants ‘it’ more. Woodley, though he appears intense in game situations, is in contrast apathetic to his training and development. Woodley caught a case of the contract extension blues. I don’t mean to make such a brushoff statement – but what other reasoning could it be why Woodley who was so productive early on, plateaued and then nearly fell off last season?
Dumping Woodley would save at least $3 million for the team and give a clear and purposed opportunity to Jason Worilds – who plays more naturally on Woodley’s side of the field anyways. Should the Steelers outright release Woodley? No way – he still has value, and could be traded for a valuable a 4th or a paired up 5th and 6th round. It’s possible he could garner a 3rd round pick, but if he was worth that much, I wouldn’t really be making the case of keeping Harrison over Woodley – catch my drift?
Harrison wants it more. Why not reward him and ditch the Woodley weight? Maybe that’s why he refuses to take a pay cut.
What are the chances of the Steelers trading off Woodley? Would dealing Woodley and keeping Harrison be a better option for the Steelers in terms of cap space and player worth on the field?