The road to a full-time roster spot in the N.F.L. has been anything but “easy” or “short” for defensive lineman Al Woods.
After Woods was selected by the Saints in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, New Orleans released him right after the preseason finished. Woods however caught on with the Steelers after he was cut, and then spent a large chunk of the 2010 campaign on the team’s practice squad.
Unfortunately for him and the Pittsburgh’s coaching staff, the defensive lineman-needy Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him to their 53-man roster in November of that same year.
The move to Tampa Bay proved to be a costly one for Woods, and he struggled to find a permanent home at the professional level after he was released twice (by the Buccaneers and the Seattle Seahawks) during the 2011 season. The Steelers however saw promise in Woods, and the franchise scooped up the defensive lineman after he was released by the Seahawks that November.
Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has been quite the fan of Woods’ overall development and play since he was re-signed, and LeBeau had some very positive things to say about the 26 year-old in a recent interview on the team’s website:
He [Al Woods] virtually has the role that Steve McLendon had last year. Like Chris Hoke did for us, Al can play end and nose. He’s a valuable guy for us. He played well against Tennessee. We are going to give him snaps, particularly early in the season when the weather is hot. It’s good to roll your linemen if you have the people you can roll with.
For a guy who was fighting for a chance just to stay on the 53-man roster last fall, it has been awesome to see how much Woods has done to impress his teammates and coaching staff.
I am sure that LeBeau and defensive line coach John Mitchell were excited to bring him back for a second look in 2011, and it seems like Woods has only exceeded their expectations with the comparisons to effective role players like McLendon and Hoke.
The former L.S.U. Tiger’s versatility should serve to be a huge plus for this relatively young defensive line, and his ability to play in a pinch at any of the three positions will help the Steelers immensely if injuries or poor-play strike. With more playing time set for him on the horizon, Woods now has ample opportunities to emerge as a “jack-of-all trades” force in his now-permanent N.F.L. home in Pittsburgh.
Follow me on Twitter: @DominicDiTolla
Follow & Like “NPC” on Facebook: Nice Pick, Cowher