ShareThis Page

Steelers veteran outside linebacker Woodley: 'I'm good to go'

| Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 10:54 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley during OTA's Tuesday, May 21, 2013, at the UPMC complex.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley during OTA's Wednesday, May 22, 2013, at the UPMC complex.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley during OTAs on Tuesday, May 21, 2013, at the UPMC complex.

He wore No. 56, but that wasn't LaMarr Woodley out there for the Steelers last season. He knows it, and the rest of the NFL knows it, too.

“Let's see if he takes the challenge (and improves),” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said. “If so, you've automatically upgraded the position.”

Getting Woodley back on track — and in the best-possible shape — is a priority as the Steelers go through their 13 spring practices between now and June 13. With longtime Pro Bowl outside linebacker James Harrison gone to Cincinnati, Woodley will be the primary pass rusher charged with creating the pressure upon which coordinator Dick LeBeau's defense thrives.

Woodley couldn't do it last season, generating four sacks in 13 games, and it had a noticeable effect as the Steelers constantly were unable to protect leads or close out close games. They lost five times by three points.

Woodley kept hearing the rumblings that he wasn't in shape, that his repeated injuries — he had hamstring problems in 2011 and '12 — were the result of him playing heavier than he should have.

Woodley blames not his weight or conditioning but a high-ankle sprain Nov. 25 at Cleveland. He missed the next two games and did not have a sack in any of his final four games.

“My performance definitely went down. When you have a high-ankle sprain, it just affects everything you do, whether it's drop back in coverage or (if you're) asked to rush,” Woodley said Wednesday. “You try to fight through injuries, and when you're out there trying to fight through injuries, people are still going to say, ‘He's not being productive.' ”

Woodley looks to be in better shape than he was last season, but he would not disclose his weight or compare it to his weight at this time a year ago. He said the ankle injury healed once the season ended and he could rest.

But he said there wasn't much resting not long after that as he began preparing for what he anticipates will be a comeback season for an elite-level pass rusher who had 44 sacks from 2008-11 but has only four in his past 15 games.

And for that talk that he must keep his weight under control to play better?

“I'm the type of person that laughs at stuff like that, any kind of negative,” Woodley said.

“If you're professional and doing this for so long, whether it's coming up in Little League, you're always going to hear negative stuff, and positive. It comes with the territory. You deal with it, and you continue to march on.”

With a new outside linebacker starting opposite Woodley — either rookie Jarvis Jones or holdout Jason Worilds — the Steelers understand it is imperative to keep Woodley healthy and productive.

“LaMarr has to get on the field,” linebackers coach Keith Butler said. “Part of that is to make sure his hamstrings are in the top shape they need to be in for him to play a (full) year, a solid year and not miss any time. We're going to try to do what we can to make sure we remedy that.”

If Woodley doesn't miss time — he sat out nine games combined the past two seasons — the Steelers might not miss Harrison as much.

“I'm good to go,” Woodley said.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.