“Shut him down.”
Those were the only words I uttered after outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley exited last night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals with a calf injury. It was really a sad turn of events for the outside linebacker, especially since he missed most of the month of November due to issues with his other calf.
For those of you who have not noticed, Woodley has missed 12 regular season games during the three years since he signed his massive contract extension. Due to the multitude of injuries he has sustained and his constant battle with weight issues, the former Michigan Wolverine has been a non-factor for much of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons.
With his injuries and lack of productivity in mind (115 tackles, 18.0 sacks, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and two interceptions), I for one would love to see the Steelers shut down their outside linebacker for the rest of the 2013 campaign.
At 6-8 and essentially out of postseason contention, it might benefit the Steelers to shut down Woodley until the 2014 regular season begins. I for one am not sure what handing out extended reps to a hobbled Woodley would accomplish down the stretch for Pittsburgh, especially since Jason Worilds and Jones have made strides in recent weeks
Worilds has been a force at left outside linebacker and has established himself as the team’s most effective pass rusher. To his credit, the rookie Jones has improved on a weekly basis out on the right side since he was inserted back into the starting lineup back in Week 11. Shutting the veteran down would allow both youngsters to make the most out of their extended reps. Plus, it would also allow Woodley to start his offseason early and prevent him from further injuring himself.
While shelving Woodley would only leave the Steelers with three healthy outside linebackers (Jones, Worilds and Chris Carter) to dress on game days, Pittsburgh only has two regular season contests left to play this year. Moreover, I would rather see the team dress a player at a positional unit with much more need of depth (defensive line) than a constantly banged-up outside linebacker.
Regardless of what transpires, I will be interested to see what the Steelers’ brass decide to do with their highest-paid defensive player during the last two weeks of the regular season.
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