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Woodley hopes to get leg up at Cincinnati

| Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, 4:20 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Broncos tight end Jacob Tamme catches a Peyton Manning pass over Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley during the second quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, in Denver. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

LaMarr Woodley recoils some when pressed about his hamstring injury.

He insists the injury he suffered against the Eagles two weeks ago and that sidelined him last week is no big deal, that he isn't allowing the fear of a setback to inhibit him as the Steelers prepare to play at Cincinnati in an AFC North showdown Sunday night.

Woodley is confident he won't be slowed as he was after injuring his left hamstring last season.

“It wasn't the same leg, and it wasn't the same hamstring,” said Woodley, who in 2011 missed six of the last eight games after getting nine sacks over the first nine. “It wasn't as serious as last year because I was out for about two months. It's a low grade, and now I'm back out there full speed.

“Last year I had to limp off the field. This time I walked off the field. The MRI showed two different kinds of injuries.”

The Steelers — 5-1 without Woodley last season — will need him at his best against a Bengals team desperately trying to right themselves after back-to-back losses.

The Bengals dropped a 34-24 decision in Cleveland last week that evened their record at 3-3.

Woodley is concerned about the Steelers' uneven performance this season, particularly a defense that uncharacteristically yields big plays and delivers few of its own.

The Steelers defense has been hampered by injuries — including safety Troy Polamalu (calf) and linebacker James Harrison (knee).

“You always want to have all your guys healthy,” Woodley said. “But when guys are down, you expect other people to step up.”

Chris Carter and Jason Worilds have played well in relief of Harrison and Woodley. Ryan Mundy and Will Allen haven't been as effective with Polamalu and Ryan Clark pacing the sideline.

Harrison said he expects the defense to elevate its game with the linebacker corps at full strength.

“Just getting Wood back, a Pro Bowl-caliber player, is big because he's contributed a lot to this defense,” Harrison said. “It'll be good to have him back.”

Woodley figures the Steelers can reel in division leader Baltimore (5-1) if they can get back to playing Steelers football: stopping the run, pressuring the quarterback and forcing turnovers.

“We still have 11 chances to turn this thing around,” Woodley said. “We've started out pretty bad, especially on the road. It's important to turn things around at Cincinnati.”

The Bengals have leaned heavily on their passing game, but quarterback Andy Dalton's nine interceptions have coach Marvin Lewis working overtime to amp up the run game that totaled 80 and 76 yards in losses to Miami and Cleveland, respectively.

“First, you have to stop the run to make them pass,” Woodley said. “This whole year we haven't forced teams to do anything. We've allowed them to pass and run the ball on us.”

Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com or 412-320-7923.

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