On one hand, I am happy to hear that Pittsburgh’s most experienced outside linebacker is being lauded by many for his offseason dedication, particularly his position coach Keith Butler. Yet I am not sure exactly why everybody is “ga-ga” over the fact that Woodley is finally “in shape.” In fact, I think that more people should be relieved more than anything else about the pass-rusher’s recent transformation.
While it is certainly nice to see that the former Pro Bowl pass-rusher is healthy and fit, is that not what “Mr. Stay Puft” has been paid to do as a professional football player throughout his career?
I guess that a record-breaking deal he signed in August of 2011 worth $61.5 million didn’t put enough pressure on him to stay in shape during the 2011 and 2012 offseasons. His interest in succeeding and usurping James Harrison as the team’s best pass-rusher were certainly nowhere to be found. Instead of entering an “elite” category at his position, LaMarr simply seemed content to trash-talk “Joe Flacco & the Ravens” while he let his waistline and ego expand to epic proportions.
Harsh assessment? Somewhat. Yet outside of a four-game stretch back in 2011, during which he dominated the likes of the hapless offensive lines of the Titans, Jaguars, and Cardinals, Woodley was nothing short of a non-factor at arguably the most glamorous position (from a stats perspective) on Pittsburgh’s defense.
Between 2011 and 2012 combined, LaMarr only racked up a total of 77 tackles and 13.0 sacks, including a paltry 4.0 last year! Numbers I should add which are nowhere near the types one would expect from an “elite” pass-rusher who was supposedly worth every penny of his mega-deal when he inked it.
Woodley can point the fingers at everybody and everything but himself for his performance over the last two years (i.e. scheme, injuries, etc.), but a guy like Harrison was not what I would call a healthy player during the 2011 and 2012 seasons either. “Deebo” however answered the bell whenever his number was called, and he still managed to rack up more sacks (15.0) than Woodley did during that span despite his lingering knee and back issues. I should also mention that Harrison was 33 and 34 when he outperformed and combined to outproduce Woodley during those years too.
Anybody with a set of functional eyes saw that Woodley looked out of shape and slow whenever he actually attacked an opposing quarterback during the 2011 and 2012 campaigns. Thankfully, one teammate of his actually noticed how “awful” and pathetic the outside linebacker actually performed in 2012. While people were disgruntled that the teammate made the negative comments “anonymously,” I think it is crucial to remember that nobody disputed WHAT was said, just HOW it was said.
I have alluded to on many occasions how the burden of LaMarr’s recent contract will only get heavier on the Steelers’ brass from 2014-2016. Woodley is set to earn a ridiculous amount of coin (base salary-wise) during that span, and that is chiefly due to the massive amounts of restructuring Colbert & Co. have done during the last two offsesaons.
With his poor play and huge deal in mind, I refuse to fawn all over or applaud LaMarr’s recent weight-loss and supposed offseason transformation. Woodley pissed away his front office’s investment in him during the last two years, so I would say that it is imperative that the outside linebacker finally perform up to the mega-deal he inked two summers ago.
Some members of “Steeler Nation” have been quick to proclaim that LaMarr’s recent weight-loss will mean that he will be back to his old-self (circa. 2008) this fall. I on the other hand question whether or not the former Michigan Wolverine’s recent focus on staying in shape will be “too little, too late.”
I certainly hate to be a “Negative Nancy,” but the “prime” of Woodley’s career might very well be finished. The pass-rusher has missed a total of nine games during the last two years due to nagging injuries, is set to turn 29 years old in November, and will now be forced to assume the role of the Steelers’ “number one pass-rusher” with Harrison out of town.
Remember readers, the calendar reads August right now and the winter is nowhere near upon us. The outside linebacker might look explosive in shorts now, but I will certainly be tempering my expectations until I see him actually wreaking havoc in opposing backfields during the months of November and December.
So before we crown Woodley the NFL’s “2013 Defensive MVP,” take into account that his 2013 regular season statline reads “0.0” in the “sacks” column. Moreover, I hope that some of you understand that a full-body transformation does not necessarily lead to effective play on the field.
Or did you already forget how Ziggy Hood played last fall after he chiseled his flabby frame during the summer of 2012?
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