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Woodley's play validates hype

One by one, LaMarr Woodley took note of the players selected ahead of him in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Gaines Adams, Jamaal Anderson, Adam Carriker, Jarvis Moss and Anthony Spencer -- Woodley still doesn't understand why he was the sixth defensive end taken.

"Everybody that got drafted in front of me, I'm doing better than them. Not being cocky, that's just the way it is," said Woodley, the Steelers' second-round pick two years ago who was the 46th overall selection.

Woodley, whose foot speed was questioned coming out of Michigan, made the seamless transition from college defensive end to NFL outside linebacker.

Woodley has 17 12 career sacks in 35 career games, or 12 sack per game. He established a league record with two sacks in each of his four postseason games.

This season, Woodley has only two sacks, but he's out to prove he isn't a one-dimensional defender. He has 25 tackles to go along with nine quarterback pressures, three passes defended and one fumble recovery.

Woodley's 77-yard touchdown return of a Brett Favre fumble not only aided the Steelers' 27-17 win over Minnesota, but it may have doused once and for all the talk of him being too slow to play linebacker at 6-foot-2 and 272 pounds.

"You see me drop back into coverage and cover receivers. Bat down balls. I even have an interception. I think all those questions kind of went away last year," said Woodley, who's scheduled to make his 23rd career start Monday night against the Denver Broncos.

"The only team that really looked at me as a defensive end coming out of college was the Tennessee Titans. Every other team was, 'Can you play outside linebacker?'

"I'm not going to run the fastest 40 time because it has nothing to do with being a football player in my eyes. I won every award possible for a defensive lineman (Lombardi, Ted Hendricks, Chevy Defensive Player of the Year). It just goes to show what I did in college wasn't a joke."

Woodley has more career sacks than four of the defensive ends drafted before him, combined -- Anderson, Carriker, Moss and Spencer. Adams, the No. 4 overall pick who was traded to Chicago this season, has 13 12 career sacks.

"I don't downplay them; I'm on a good team," Woodley said. "I'm playing at a high level now with a good group of guys."

Woodley's touchdown return was a total team effort as he followed a convoy of blockers to the end zone. It was his second career fumble return for a touchdown.

"When I picked up the ball, no one was there. So, I turned sideways, tried to keep my momentum going forward and made sure I had the ball," Woodley said. "Coming out of college, I didn't run a 4.5, 4.6 40. I ran a 4.7. Everything is based on 40-time. What is a defensive lineman doing running the 40• I ain't no track guy. I'm a football player. I just saw that (touchdown) run as, 'Finally, LaMarr made a big play. He might not be getting the sacks this year, but he made a great play.'"

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