Starkey: Woodley and Harrison, please
TribLIVE Sports Videos
It's really quite simple: The NFL is a passing league, so if you want to hoist that sterling silver trophy, you better find a way to harass passers.
The Steelers know that. It's why they have approximately $113 million invested in their two quarterback hounds — James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. This defense just isn't the same without those two at full strength.
In other words, this defense hasn't been itself for quite some time.
Something's wrong when you look at the stats and see Jason Worilds and Larry Foote tied for the team lead in sacks with a measly three apiece.
It's odder still to see the Steelers, after recording just 35 sacks last season, on pace for 28 this season (12 in seven games). That would be their lowest total since 19 in 1988.
Woodley has two.
Harrison has one.
In a related story, the Steelers have forced just seven turnovers (four fumble recoveries, three interceptions). Only the Indianapolis Colts have fewer.
Sunday would be an excellent time for the wonder-twin powers to activate. Preferably in the Giants backfield, on either side of Eli Manning, who has been sacked a league-low seven times.
Thing is, neither Harrison nor Woodley appears to be near full strength yet.
Harrison, who had surgery in August to remove pieces of meniscus from his left knee, admitted after practice Friday that he likely won't be his old self until next season.
The admission came about during our conversation by his locker:
Question: “Is it frustrating to have it come back so slowly?”
Harrison: “It's not frustrating. I mean, I'm still at a stage where I'm not 100 percent, so I'm not really too worried about it.”
Question: “You're not 100 percent health-wise or conditioning-wise?”
Question: “Will you get there this season?”
Harrison: “I don't believe you'll be able to get back to 100 percent, health-wise. Conditioning-wise, it's a possibility. Health-wise, you're not going to be able to because as soon as you get done with surgery, you start playing, and you know you're going to continue to deal with that little issue until the end of the season. When you finally get time to rehab it properly, you'll be able to get to 100 percent.”
Question: “Will we see the guy this season who blows up blockers and quarterbacks?”
Harrison: “That's what we're working to get to.”
Question: “Are you confident we'll see that guy?”
Harrison: “I don't see why not. A guy that's not 100 percent can still be destructive.”
At the far other end of the room, Woodley was coming off his first practice of the week. He's been nagged with hamstring problems again, though on a different leg than last season.
Woodley said he's still sore mostly because he stretched his right leg so much in rehab. He can't wait to celebrate over a quarterback with Harrison again.
“Even at less than 100 percent, we can play,” Woodley said. “And if we're not able to play in certain situations, we'll rely on our backup guys.”
Right, but the backup guys aren't making big money to kill quarterbacks.
“Well,” Woodley said, “even when I wasn't a guy they were paying a lot of money to, it was still my job to go out there and get to the quarterback.”
Somebody better because if they don't, Manning will have his way against the Steelers. Just like his older brother did.
Sure, this team still plays solid statistical defense (No. 1 in yards allowed). But there's so much more to the job. Woodley said it best when somebody mentioned the yardage ranking.
“It's a different standard around here,” he said “It's not like other teams. Expectations are higher.”
The idea around here isn't just to hold yardage totals down. It's to harass quarterbacks and change games in a heartbeat.
The formula is simple.
Now if only the Steelers could recapture it.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 “The Fan.” His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- PennDOT puts 14 Alle-Kiski Valley bridges on list to be replaced
- Steelers to bring LB Harrison out of retirement
- Freeport dock bid exceeds resources
- Harrison OKs antenna zoning change
- Steelers defense must replace three injured starters after victory
- Flag holders stolen off veterans’ graves in Lower Burrell cemetery
- Apollo-Ridge middle school library project gains STEAM
- Liriano, McCutchen help Pirates to 1-0 win over Braves
- Cloverleaf bridge work to resume after change
- Red Wings beat Penguins, 2-1, in preseason opener
- Taxes at forefront of 1st Pa. governor debate between Corbett, Wolf