A defensive end in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 base defense, Al Woods surprised many during the offseason when he took reps as the unit’s second-team nose tackle. While Steve McLendon was firmly entrenched as Casey Hampton’s successor at the nose, it was still shocking to see a defensive end like Woods as the top-backup behind McLendon instead of the likes of Alameda Ta’amu and Hebron Fangupo.
To his credit, Woods not only made the roster as a defensive end once again this year, his versatility as a backup nose tackle allowed him to climb to number two on the depth chart at both positions.
Although Woods was rarely used on the defensive side of the ball during the Steelers’ 4-6 start (four tackles), and injury to McLendon during yesterday’s game thrust him into the game at the nose tackle spot. To the former L.S.U. Tigers’ credit, he did a terrific job in McLendon’s place over the weekend.
Overall, Woods logged four tackles and an impressive 2.0 sacks during his extended stint in the lineup against the Browns and should be primed to play on an extended basis during Pittsburgh’s final five regular season games
With McLendon out for Sunday’s game (and possibly longer) with his sprained ankle, as well as defensive end Brett Keisel hobbled by his foot injury, it will be up to Woods to maintain a high-level of play at one of the most important positions in Pittsburgh’s 3-4 base defense.
While Woods could certainly share the nose tackle duties with his backup Fangupo or even Ziggy Hood, he will be one of the Steelers’ key players in the defensive trenches until McLendon is able to suit up and play.
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