Back during the 2011 season, Mike Tomlin was quoted saying “sometimes Robin has to become Batman.” Coach Tomlin responded with this when discussing the situation with Harrison being out, and the need for Woodley to step up. For those of you who don’t remember what happened over the course of 2011, James Harrison went down with an eye injury in week 4, so it was put upon Woodley’s shoulders to fill that pass rushing void and show that he can do what Harrison could.
Woodley indeed did that as he had 7.5 sacks until he got hurt 4 weeks later. His best week came against the Cardinals when he had 2 sacks, along with forcing a grounding penalty, resulting in a safety. LaMarr was a terror in opposing offensive backfields, but it came to an abrupt end when he injured his hamstring in the 3rd quarter against the Patriots. One can only imagine what Woodley would have done had he not injured himself. I believe he would have had at least 15 sacks, but of course this is just speculation.
With Harrison being cut and signing with the Bengals, everyone thinks that there will be a huge void. I agree with that, but the funny thing is, it’s not like Harrison was anything like he used to be in the passing game. This is a big reason why the Steelers were unable to get more sacks and turnovers. The Steelers were not being dumb when they decided to release him because he is nowhere near what he used to be and what he expected to get paid. With Harrison gone, LaMarr Woodley can no longer play the part of Robin. It’s his turn to become Batman.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you know the Steelers recently drafted Jarvis Jones to replace James Harrison. Even so, it’s very hard to speculate how much Jarvis will be able to contribute early on. Along with Jones, Jason Worilds is expected to try to fill the void. While both young men have potential to do great things, right now we have to assume that they won’t come in and dominate. This is why it is very important that Woodley becomes the dominant pass rusher that he has shown he can be.
According to and anonymous teammate, when discussing Woodley with Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, he said:
“He 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.”
I want to first say that this is very disappointing for someone to do this. Yes, Woodley needs to understand how important this offseason is, as well as the season, I don’t feel going to the media is the best way to do this. If you want to talk to Woodley about this, go talk to him yourself. It is uncalled for to be “anonymous” and call him out in the media.
Woodley obviously needs to change something due to the nagging injuries he has suffered, but we don’t for sure know that it was because of conditioning. I am not going to assume, but whatever it was, the past is the past. Hearing from several beat writers, the buzz out of OTA’s was how fit LaMarr looked.
I firmly believe that Woodley has a pro-bowl caliber season, maybe even a contender for defensive player of the year. I can honestly say that I would be surprised if Woodley didn’t have more than 10 sacks.
Larry Foote told WDVE that he’s seen an “extra-motivated” Woodley at workouts this spring and thinks he could put up a “defensive MVP-type” season. If Woodley comes anywhere close to this, anything the young duo of Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones do on the right side will be seen as enough if Woodley has a 12+ sack season. Being the second highest paid player on the Steelers behind Roethlisberger, Woodley is expected to do big things. Steeler fans, you should be very excited to see what LaMarr Woodley is able to do this next season, and the seasons beyond that because there’s a very strong chance Woodley could make us forget who James Harrison even was.
For More Steelers:
Follow Me on Twitter: @NicktheSteelman